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Does Rolls-Royce Holdings plc (LON:RR.) Have A Place In Your Dividend Stock Portfolio?

Simply Wall St

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Is Rolls-Royce Holdings plc (LON:RR.) a good dividend stock? How would you know? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. Yet sometimes, investors buy a popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

With a 1.3% yield and a nine-year payment history, investors probably think Rolls-Royce Holdings looks like a reliable dividend stock. A low yield is generally a turn-off, but if the prospects for earnings growth were strong, investors might be pleasantly surprised by the long-term results. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Rolls-Royce Holdings for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

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LSE:RR. Historical Dividend Yield, June 16th 2019

Payout ratios

Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Although Rolls-Royce Holdings pays a dividend, it was loss-making during the past year. When a company recently reported a loss, we should investigate if its cash flows covered the dividend.

Rolls-Royce Holdings paid out a conservative 33% of its free cash flow as dividends last year.

We update our data on Rolls-Royce Holdings every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

Dividend Volatility

Before buying a stock for its income, we want to see if the dividends have been stable in the past, and if the company has a track record of maintaining its dividend. The first recorded dividend for Rolls-Royce Holdings, in the last decade, was nine years ago. Although it has been paying a dividend for several years now, the dividend has been cut at least once by more than 20%, and we're cautious about the consistency of its dividend across a full economic cycle. During the past nine-year period, the first annual payment was UK£0.15 in 2010, compared to UK£0.12 last year. This works out to be a decline of approximately 2.7% per year over that time. Rolls-Royce Holdings's dividend has been cut sharply at least once, so it hasn't fallen by 2.7% every year, but this is a decent approximation of the long term change.

A shrinking dividend over a nine-year period is not ideal, and we'd be concerned about investing in a dividend stock that lacks a solid record of growing dividends per share.

Dividend Growth Potential

Given that the dividend has been cut in the past, we need to check if earnings are growing and if that might lead to stronger dividends in the future. It's not great to see that Rolls-Royce Holdings's have fallen at approximately 9.8% over the past five years. If earnings continue to decline, the dividend may come under pressure. Every investor should make an assessment of whether the company is taking steps to stabilise the situation.

Conclusion

Dividend investors should always want to know if a) a company's dividends are affordable, b) if there is a track record of consistent payments, and c) if the dividend is capable of growing. We're a bit uncomfortable with the company paying a dividend while being loss-making, although at least the dividend was covered by free cash flow. Earnings per share have been falling, and the company has cut its dividend at least once in the past. From a dividend perspective, this is a cause for concern. Overall, Rolls-Royce Holdings falls short in several key areas here. Unless the investor has strong grounds for an alternative conclusion, we find it hard to get interested in a dividend stock with these characteristics.

Without at least some growth in earnings per share over time, the dividend will eventually come under pressure either from costs or inflation. Very few businesses see earnings consistently shrink year after year in perpetuity though, and so it might be worth seeing what the 16 analysts we track are forecasting for the future.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 3%.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.