Is Domtar Corporation (NYSE:UFS) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. 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.
With a goodly-sized dividend yield despite a relatively short payment history, investors might be wondering if Domtar is a new dividend aristocrat in the making. It sure looks interesting on these metrics - but there's always more to the story . When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.
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. Domtar paid out 39% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. This is a medium payout level that leaves enough capital in the business to fund opportunities that might arise, while also rewarding shareholders. Besides, if reinvestment opportunities dry up, the company has room to increase the dividend.
Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Domtar paid out a conservative 48% of its free cash flow as dividends last year. It's positive to see that Domtar's dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.
Consider getting our latest analysis on Domtar's financial position here.
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. Looking at the last decade of data, we can see that Domtar paid its first dividend at least 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 US$0.50 in 2010, compared to US$1.82 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 15% a year over that time. The dividends haven't grown at precisely 15% every year, but this is a useful way to average out the historical rate of growth.
Domtar has grown distributions at a rapid rate despite cutting the dividend at least once in the past. Companies that cut once often cut again, but it might be worth considering if the business has turned a corner.
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 good to see Domtar has been growing its earnings per share at 27% a year over the past 5 years. Earnings per share have rocketed in recent times, and we like that the company is retaining more than half of its earnings to reinvest. However, always remember that very few companies can grow at double digit rates forever.
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. Firstly, we like that Domtar has low and conservative payout ratios. Unfortunately, the company has not been able to generate earnings per share growth, and cut its dividend at least once in the past. Domtar performs highly under this analysis, although it falls slightly short of our exacting standards. At the right valuation, it could be a solid dividend prospect.
Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 10 Domtar analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on 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%.
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.