U.S. Markets closed

Ferrovial, S.A. (BME:FER) Investors Should Think About This Before Buying It For Its Dividend

Simply Wall St

Could Ferrovial, S.A. (BME:FER) be an attractive dividend share to own for the long haul? Investors are often drawn to strong companies with the idea of reinvesting the dividends. 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.

While Ferrovial's 2.8% dividend yield is not the highest, we think its lengthy payment history is quite interesting. The company also returned around 1.3% of its market capitalisation to shareholders in the form of stock buybacks over the past year. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Ferrovial for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

BME:FER Historical Dividend Yield, November 14th 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. Ferrovial paid out 1018% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, from the perspective of an investor who hopes to own the company for many years, a payout ratio of above 100% is definitely a concern.

Is Ferrovial's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Ferrovial's dividend was not well covered by earnings, we need to check its balance sheet for signs of financial distress. A quick check of its financial situation can be done with two ratios: net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA is a measure of a company's total debt. Net interest cover measures the ability to meet interest payments. Essentially we check that a) the company does not have too much debt, and b) that it can afford to pay the interest. With a net debt to EBITDA ratio of 55.82 times, Ferrovial is very highly levered. While this debt might be serviceable, we would still say it carries substantial risk for the investor who hopes to live on the dividend.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. With EBIT of less than 1 times its interest expense, Ferrovial's financial situation is potentially quite concerning. Readers should investigate whether it might be at risk of breaching the minimum requirements on its loans. High debt and weak interest cover are not a great combo, and we would be cautious of relying on this company's dividend while these metrics persist.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Ferrovial'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. Ferrovial 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 fallen by at least 20% one or more times over this time. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was €2.00 in 2009, compared to €0.72 last year. The dividend has shrunk at around 9.7% a year during that period. Ferrovial's dividend hasn't shrunk linearly at 9.7% per annum, but the CAGR is a useful estimate of the historical rate of change.

We struggle to make a case for buying Ferrovial for its dividend, given that payments have shrunk over the past ten years.

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. Ferrovial's earnings per share have shrunk at 41% a year over the past five years. With this kind of significant decline, we always wonder what has changed in the business. Dividends are about stability, and Ferrovial'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, it's not great to see how much of its earnings are being paid as dividends. Second, earnings per share have been in decline, and its dividend has been cut at least once in the past. To conclude, we've spotted a couple of potential concerns with Ferrovial that may make it less than ideal candidate for dividend investors.

Given that earnings are not growing, the dividend does not look nearly so attractive. See if the 15 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.