Dividend paying stocks like First Bancorp (NASDAQ:FBNC) 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. On the other hand, investors have been known to buy a stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.
While First Bancorp's 1.8% dividend yield is not the highest, we think its lengthy payment history is quite interesting. During the year, the company also conducted a buyback equivalent to around 0.9% of its market capitalisation. Before you buy any stock for its dividend however, you should always remember Warren Buffett's two rules: 1) Don't lose money, and 2) Remember rule #1. We'll run through some checks below to help with this.
Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. In the last year, First Bancorp paid out 14% of its profit as dividends. We like this low payout ratio, because it implies the dividend is well covered and leaves ample opportunity for reinvestment.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of First Bancorp's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.
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. First Bancorp has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. The dividend has been stable over the past 10 years, which is great. We think this could suggest some resilience to the business and its dividends. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.32 in 2009, compared to US$0.72 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 8.4% a year over that time.
Dividends have grown at a reasonable rate over this period, and without any major cuts in the payment over time, we think this is an attractive combination.
Dividend Growth Potential
Dividend payments have been consistent over the past few years, but we should always check if earnings per share (EPS) are growing, as this will help maintain the purchasing power of the dividend. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see First Bancorp has grown its earnings per share at 26% per annum over the past five years. The company is only paying out a fraction of its earnings as dividends, and in the past been able to use the retained earnings to grow its profits rapidly - an ideal combination.
When we look at a dividend stock, we need to form a judgement on whether the dividend will grow, if the company is able to maintain it in a wide range of economic circumstances, and if the dividend payout is sustainable. Firstly, we like that First Bancorp has a low and conservative payout ratio. We like that it has been delivering solid improvement in its earnings per share, and relatively consistent dividend payments. First Bancorp fits all of our criteria, and we think there are a lot of positives to it from a dividend perspective.
Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 5 First Bancorp analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company.
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 email@example.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.