NCC Group plc (LON:NCC) stock is about to trade ex-dividend in 3 days. Investors can purchase shares before the 8th of October in order to be eligible for this dividend, which will be paid on the 6th of November.
NCC Group's next dividend payment will be UK£0.032 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed UK£0.046 to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, NCC Group stock has a trailing yield of around 2.6% on the current share price of £1.76. We love seeing companies pay a dividend, but it's also important to be sure that laying the golden eggs isn't going to kill our golden goose! So we need to investigate whether NCC Group can afford its dividend, and if the dividend could grow.
Dividends are usually paid out of company profits, so if a company pays out more than it earned then its dividend is usually at greater risk of being cut. NCC Group distributed an unsustainably high 110% of its profit as dividends to shareholders last year. Without extenuating circumstances, we'd consider the dividend at risk of a cut. That said, even highly profitable companies sometimes might not generate enough cash to pay the dividend, which is why we should always check if the dividend is covered by cash flow. It distributed 38% of its free cash flow as dividends, a comfortable payout level for most companies.
It's good to see that while NCC Group's dividends were not covered by profits, at least they are affordable from a cash perspective. If executives were to continue paying more in dividends than the company reported in profits, we'd view this as a warning sign. Very few companies are able to sustainably pay dividends larger than their reported earnings.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
When earnings decline, dividend companies become much harder to analyse and own safely. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. With that in mind, we're discomforted by NCC Group's 12% per annum decline in earnings in the past five years. When earnings per share fall, the maximum amount of dividends that can be paid also falls.
The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. NCC Group has delivered 10% dividend growth per year on average over the past 10 years. The only way to pay higher dividends when earnings are shrinking is either to pay out a larger percentage of profits, spend cash from the balance sheet, or borrow the money. NCC Group is already paying out a high percentage of its income, so without earnings growth, we're doubtful of whether this dividend will grow much in the future.
To Sum It Up
Has NCC Group got what it takes to maintain its dividend payments? It's not a great combination to see a company with earnings in decline and paying out 110% of its profits, which could imply the dividend may be at risk of being cut in the future. Yet cashflow was much stronger, which makes us wonder if there are some large timing issues in NCC Group's cash flows, or perhaps the company has written down some assets aggressively, reducing its income. Bottom line: NCC Group has some unfortunate characteristics that we think could lead to sub-optimal outcomes for dividend investors.
With that in mind though, if the poor dividend characteristics of NCC Group don't faze you, it's worth being mindful of the risks involved with this business. Case in point: We've spotted 2 warning signs for NCC Group you should be aware of.
We wouldn't recommend just buying the first dividend stock you see, though. Here's a list of interesting dividend stocks with a greater than 2% yield and an upcoming dividend.
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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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