U.S. Markets closed

Is Driver Group plc (LON:DRV) A Smart Pick For Income Investors?

Simply Wall St

Is Driver Group plc (LON:DRV) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. Unfortunately, it's common for investors to be enticed in by the seemingly attractive yield, and lose money when the company has to cut its dividend payments.

A slim 2.2% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, Driver Group could have potential. The company also returned around 2.7% of its market capitalisation to shareholders in the form of stock buybacks over the past year. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Driver Group for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

AIM:DRV Historical Dividend Yield, January 15th 2020

Payout ratios

Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. 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. Driver Group paid out 24% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. We like this low payout ratio, because it implies the dividend is well covered and leaves ample opportunity for reinvestment.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Unfortunately, while Driver Group pays a dividend, it also reported negative free cash flow last year. While there may be a good reason for this, it's not ideal from a dividend perspective.

While the above analysis focuses on dividends relative to a company's earnings, we do note Driver Group's strong net cash position, which will let it pay larger dividends for a time, should it choose.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Driver Group's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

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. Driver Group has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. This dividend has been unstable, which we define as having been cut one or more times over this time. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was UK£0.029 in 2010, compared to UK£0.015 last year. The dividend has shrunk at around 6.5% a year during that period. Driver Group's dividend hasn't shrunk linearly at 6.5% per annum, but the CAGR is a useful estimate of the historical rate of change.

When a company's per-share dividend falls we question if this reflects poorly on either external business conditions, or the company's capital allocation decisions. Either way, we find it hard to get excited about a company with a declining dividend.

Dividend Growth Potential

Given that dividend payments have been shrinking like a glacier in a warming world, we need to check if there are some bright spots on the horizon. Driver Group's EPS have fallen by approximately 12% per year during the past five years. With this kind of significant decline, we always wonder what has changed in the business. Dividends are about stability, and Driver Group's earnings per share, which support the dividend, have been anything but stable.

Conclusion

Dividend investors should always want to know if a) a company's dividends are affordable, b) if there is a track record of consistent payments, and c) if the dividend is capable of growing. First, we like Driver Group's low dividend payout ratio, although we're a bit concerned that it paid out a substantially higher percentage of its free cash flow. Earnings per share have been falling, and the company has cut its dividend at least once in the past. From a dividend perspective, this is a cause for concern. With this information in mind, we think Driver Group may not be an ideal dividend stock.

Are management backing themselves to deliver performance? Check their shareholdings in Driver Group in our latest insider ownership analysis.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 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.