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Today we'll take a closer look at FirstCash, Inc. (NASDAQ:FCFS) from a dividend investor's perspective. Owning a strong business and reinvesting the dividends is widely seen as an attractive way of growing your wealth. Yet sometimes, investors buy a popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.
Some readers mightn't know much about FirstCash's 1.0% dividend, as it has only been paying distributions for the last three years. While it may not look like much, if earnings are growing it could become quite interesting. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 4.5% of market capitalisation this year. 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. 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, FirstCash paid out 27% of its profit as dividends. A medium payout ratio strikes a good balance between paying dividends, and keeping enough back to invest in the business. Plus, there is room to increase the payout ratio over time.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of FirstCash'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. The dividend has not fluctuated much, but with a relatively short payment history, we can't be sure this is sustainable across a full market cycle. During the past three-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.50 in 2016, compared to US$1.00 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 26% a year over that time.
The dividend has been growing pretty quickly, which could be enough to get us interested even though the dividend history is relatively short. Further research may be warranted.
Dividend Growth Potential
Examining whether the dividend is affordable and stable is important. However, it's also important to assess if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Growing EPS can help maintain or increase the purchasing power of the dividend over the long run. Earnings have grown at around 3.8% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! FirstCash is paying out less than half of its earnings, which we like. Earnings per share growth have grown slowly, which is not great, but if the retained earnings can be reinvested effectively, future growth may be stronger.
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 FirstCash has a low and conservative payout ratio. Unfortunately, earnings growth has also been mediocre, and we think it has not been paying dividends long enough to demonstrate resilience across economic cycles. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than FirstCash out there.
Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 6 FirstCash analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company.
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 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. Thank you for reading.