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Is Eni S.p.A.'s (BIT:ENI) 6.4% Dividend Worth Your Time?

Simply Wall St

Is Eni S.p.A. (BIT:ENI) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. 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.

In this case, Eni likely looks attractive to investors, given its 6.4% dividend yield and a payment history of over ten years. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Eni for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Eni!

BIT:ENI Historical Dividend Yield, August 9th 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, Eni paid out 88% of its profit as dividends. It's paying out most of its earnings, which limits the amount that can be reinvested in the business. This may indicate limited need for further capital within the business, or highlight a commitment to paying a dividend.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Eni paid out a conservative 48% of its free cash flow as dividends last year. It's positive to see that Eni'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 Eni's financial position here.

Dividend Volatility

One of the major risks of relying on dividend income, is the potential for a company to struggle financially and cut its dividend. Not only is your income cut, but the value of your investment declines as well - nasty. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Eni's dividend payments. This dividend has been unstable, which we define as having fallen by at least 20% one or more times over this time. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was €1.35 in 2009, compared to €0.86 last year. This works out to be a decline of approximately 4.4% per year over that time. Eni's dividend has been cut sharply at least once, so it hasn't fallen by 4.4% every year, but this is a decent approximation of the long term change.

A shrinking dividend over a ten-year period is not ideal, and we'd be concerned about investing in a dividend stock that lacks a solid record of growing dividends per share.

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. While there may be fluctuations in the past , Eni's earnings per share have basically not grown from where they were five years ago. Over the long term, steady earnings per share is a risk as the value of the dividends can be reduced by inflation.

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 think Eni has an acceptable payout ratio and its dividend is well covered by cashflow. Unfortunately, the company has not been able to generate earnings per share growth, and cut its dividend at least once in the past. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Eni from a dividend perspective. It's not that we think it's a bad business; just that there are other companies that perform better on these criteria.

Given that earnings are not growing, the dividend does not look nearly so attractive. See if the 22 analysts are forecasting a turnaround in our free collection of analyst estimates here.

We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 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 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. Thank you for reading.