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Does Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. (NASDAQ:WBA) Have A Place In Your Dividend Portfolio?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll take a closer look at Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. (NASDAQ:WBA) 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. If you are hoping to live on the income from dividends, it's important to be a lot more stringent with your investments than the average punter.

A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for Walgreens Boots Alliance. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 7.6% of market capitalisation this year. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Walgreens Boots Alliance for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.

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NasdaqGS:WBA Historical Dividend Yield, December 12th 2019

Payout ratios

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. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. In the last year, Walgreens Boots Alliance paid out 41% of its profit as dividends. This is a middling range that strikes a nice balance between paying dividends to shareholders, and retaining enough earnings to invest in future growth. One of the risks is that management reinvests the retained capital poorly instead of paying a higher dividend.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Walgreens Boots Alliance's cash payout ratio in the last year was 42%, which suggests dividends were well covered by cash generated by the business. It's encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don't drop precipitously.

Is Walgreens Boots Alliance's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Walgreens Boots Alliance has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. A quick check of its financial situation can be done with two ratios: net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA is a measure of a company's total debt. Net interest cover measures the ability to meet interest payments. Essentially we check that a) the company does not have too much debt, and b) that it can afford to pay the interest. Walgreens Boots Alliance has net debt of 2.40 times its EBITDA. Using debt can accelerate business growth, but also increases the risks.

We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company's net interest expense. Walgreens Boots Alliance has EBIT of 7.13 times its interest expense, which we think is adequate.

We update our data on Walgreens Boots Alliance 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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Walgreens Boots Alliance's dividend payments. The dividend has been stable over the past 10 years, which is great. We think this could suggest some resilience to the business and its dividends. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.45 in 2009, compared to US$1.83 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 15% a year over that time.

Dividends have been growing pretty quickly, and even more impressively, they haven't experienced any notable falls during this period.

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. It's good to see Walgreens Boots Alliance has been growing its earnings per share at 16% a year over the past five years. A company paying out less than a quarter of its earnings as dividends, and growing earnings at more than 10% per annum, looks to be right in the cusp of its growth phase. At the right price, we might be interested.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Walgreens Boots Alliance's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. Firstly, we like that Walgreens Boots Alliance has low and conservative payout ratios. That said, we were glad to see it growing earnings and paying a fairly consistent dividend. Walgreens Boots Alliance has met all of our criteria, including having strong cash flow that covers the dividend. We definitely think it would be worthwhile looking closer.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 20 analysts we track are forecasting for Walgreens Boots Alliance for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 3%.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.