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Does It Make Sense To Buy Cenovus Energy Inc. (TSE:CVE) For Its Yield?

Simply Wall St

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Dividend paying stocks like Cenovus Energy Inc. (TSE:CVE) tend to be popular with investors, and for good reason - some research suggests a significant amount of all stock market returns come from reinvested dividends. If you are hoping to live on your dividends, it's important to be more stringent with your investments than the average punter. Regular readers know we like to apply the same approach to each dividend stock, and we hope you'll find our analysis useful.

A 1.7% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests Cenovus Energy has some staying power. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 0.7% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

TSX:CVE Historical Dividend Yield, July 10th 2019

Payout ratios

Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Although Cenovus Energy pays a dividend, it was loss-making during the past year. This is medium payout level that leaves enough capital in the business to fund opportunities that might arise, while also rewarding shareholders. Plus, there is room to increase the payout ratio over time.

Cenovus Energy paid out 16% of its free cash flow as dividends last year, which is conservative and suggests the dividend is sustainable.

We update our data on Cenovus Energy every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

Dividend Volatility

From the perspective of an income investor who wants to earn dividends for many years, there is not much point buying a stock if its dividend is regularly cut or is not reliable. Cenovus Energy has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was CA$0.82 in 2009, compared to CA$0.20 last year. The dividend has fallen 76% over that period.

We struggle to make a case for buying Cenovus Energy for its dividend, given that payments have shrunk over the past ten years.

Dividend Growth Potential

Examining whether the dividend is affordable and stable is important. However, it's also important to assess if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Growing EPS can help maintain or increase the purchasing power of the dividend over the long run. In the last five years, Cenovus Energy's earnings per share have shrunk at approximately 29% per annum. 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

When we look at a dividend stock, we need to form a judgement on whether the dividend will grow, if the company is able to maintain it in a wide range of economic circumstances, and if the dividend payout is sustainable. We're not keen on the fact that Cenovus Energy paid dividends despite reporting a loss over the past year, although fortunately its dividend was covered by cash flow. Second, earnings per share have been in decline, and its dividend has been cut at least once in the past. Overall, Cenovus Energy 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. See if the 8 analysts are forecasting a turnaround in our free collection of analyst estimates here.

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.