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Today we'll take a closer look at SpartanNash Company (NASDAQ:SPTN) from a dividend investor's perspective. Owning a strong business and reinvesting the dividends is widely seen as an attractive way of growing your wealth. Yet sometimes, investors buy a stock for its dividend and lose money because the share price falls by more than they earned in dividend payments.
A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for SpartanNash. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. Remember that the recent share price drop will make SpartanNash's yield look higher, even though recent events might have impacted the company's prospects. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying SpartanNash for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.
Dividends are usually paid out of company earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. As a result, we should always investigate whether a company can afford its dividend, measured as a percentage of a company's net income after tax. Looking at the data, we can see that 91% of SpartanNash's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. With a payout ratio this high, we'd say its dividend is not well covered by earnings. This may be fine if earnings are growing, but it might not take much of a downturn for the dividend to come under pressure.
We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. SpartanNash's cash payout ratio in the last year was 45%, which suggests dividends were well covered by cash generated by the business. While the dividend was not well covered by profits, at least they were covered by free cash flow. Still, if the company continues paying out such a high percentage of its profits, the dividend could be at risk if business turns sour.
Is SpartanNash's Balance Sheet Risky?
As SpartanNash's dividend was not well covered by earnings, we need to check its balance sheet for signs of financial distress. A quick way to check a company's financial situation uses these two ratios: net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA measures a company's total debt load relative to its earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the company's ability to pay the interest on its debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). SpartanNash is carrying net debt of 4.13 times its EBITDA, which is getting towards the upper limit of our comfort range on a dividend stock that the investor hopes will endure a wide range of economic circumstances.
We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company's net interest expense. Interest cover of less than 5x its interest expense is starting to become a concern for SpartanNash, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of SpartanNash's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.
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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of SpartanNash's dividend payments. During this period the dividend has been stable, which could imply the business could have relatively consistent earnings power. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.20 in 2009, compared to US$0.76 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 14% a year over that time.
With rapid dividend growth and no notable cuts to the dividend over a lengthy period of time, we think this company has a lot going for it.
Dividend Growth Potential
Dividend payments have been consistent over the past few years, but we should always check if earnings per share (EPS) are growing, as this will help maintain the purchasing power of the dividend. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see SpartanNash has grown its earnings per share at 64% per annum over the past five years. The company has been growing its EPS at a very rapid rate, while paying out virtually all of its income as dividends. While EPS could grow fast enough to make the dividend sustainable, in this type of situation, we'd want to pay extra attention to any fragilities in the company's balance sheet.
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 a bit uncomfortable with its high payout ratio, although at least the dividend was covered by free cash flow. Next, growing earnings per share and steady dividend payments is a great combination. Overall we think SpartanNash is an interesting dividend stock, although it could be better.
Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 6 SpartanNash analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company.
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 email@example.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.