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Ennis, Inc. (NYSE:EBF) Has Got What It Takes To Be An Attractive Dividend Stock

Simply Wall St

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Dividend paying stocks like Ennis, Inc. (NYSE:EBF) tend to be popular with investors, and for good reason - some research suggests a significant amount of all stock market returns come from reinvested dividends. If you are hoping to live on your dividends, it's important to be more stringent with your investments than the average punter. Regular readers know we like to apply the same approach to each dividend stock, and we hope you'll find our analysis useful.

In this case, Ennis likely looks attractive to investors, given its 4.8% dividend yield and a payment history of over ten years. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 1.0% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NYSE:EBF Historical Dividend Yield, June 18th 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. 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. In the last year, Ennis paid out 60% of its profit as dividends. This is a fairly normal payout ratio among most businesses. It allows a higher dividend to be paid to shareholders, but does limit the capital retained in the business - which could be good or bad.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Ennis's cash payout ratio in the last year was 49%, which suggests dividends were well covered by cash generated by the business. It's positive to see that Ennis'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 Ennis's financial position 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 Ennis's dividend payments. During this period the dividend has been stable, which could imply the business could have relatively consistent earnings power. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.62 in 2009, compared to US$0.90 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 3.8% per year over this time.

While the consistency in the dividend payments is impressive, we think the relatively slow rate of growth is unappealing.

Dividend Growth Potential

While dividend payments have been relatively reliable, it would also be nice if earnings per share (EPS) were growing, as this is essential to maintaining the dividend's purchasing power over the long term. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Ennis has grown its earnings per share at 23% per annum over the past five years. Earnings per share are sharply up, but we wonder if paying out more than half its earnings (leaving less for reinvestment) is an implicit signal that Ennis's growth will be slower in the future.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Ennis's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. Ennis's payout ratios are within a normal range for the average corporation, and we like that its cashflow was stronger than reported profits. Next, growing earnings per share and steady dividend payments is a great combination. All things considered, Ennis looks like a strong prospect. At the right valuation, it could be something special.

See if management have their own wealth at stake, by checking insider shareholdings in Ennis stock.

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