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Is Gentrack Group Limited (NZSE:GTK) A Good Dividend Stock?

Simply Wall St

Could Gentrack Group Limited (NZSE:GTK) 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. 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, Gentrack Group likely looks attractive to dividend investors, given its 3.0% dividend yield and five-year payment history. We'd agree the yield does look enticing. Remember that the recent share price drop will make Gentrack Group's yield look higher, even though recent events might have impacted the company's prospects. 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.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NZSE:GTK Historical Dividend Yield, January 16th 2020

Payout ratios

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. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Although it reported a loss over the past 12 months, Gentrack Group currently pays a dividend. When a company recently reported a loss, we should investigate if its cash flows covered the dividend.

Gentrack Group paid out 207% of its free cash flow last year, suggesting the dividend is poorly covered by cash flow. Paying out such a high percentage of cash flow suggests that the dividend was funded from either cash at bank or by borrowing, neither of which is desirable over the long term.

While the above analysis focuses on dividends relative to a company's earnings, we do note Gentrack Group's strong net cash position, which will let it pay larger dividends for a time, should it choose.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Gentrack Group's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

Dividend Volatility

From the perspective of an income investor who wants to earn dividends for many years, there is not much point buying a stock if its dividend is regularly cut or is not reliable. Looking at the data, we can see that Gentrack Group has been paying a dividend for the past five years. During the past five-year period, the first annual payment was NZ$0.036 in 2015, compared to NZ$0.08 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 17% a year over that time. The dividends haven't grown at precisely 17% every year, but this is a useful way to average out the historical rate of growth.

It's not great to see that the payment has been cut in the past. We're generally more wary of companies that have cut their dividend before, as they tend to perform worse in an economic downturn.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, it's even more important to evaluate if earnings per share (EPS) are growing - it's not worth taking the risk on a dividend getting cut, unless you might be rewarded with larger dividends in future. It's not great to see that Gentrack Group's have fallen at approximately 9.6% over the past five years. Declining earnings per share over a number of years is not a great sign for the dividend investor. Without some improvement, this does not bode well for the long term value of a company's dividend.

We'd also point out that Gentrack Group issued a meaningful number of new shares in the past year. Trying to grow the dividend when issuing new shares reminds us of the ancient Greek tale of Sisyphus - perpetually pushing a boulder uphill. Companies that consistently issue new shares are often suboptimal from a dividend perspective.

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. It's a concern to see that the company paid a dividend despite reporting a loss, and the dividend was also not well covered by free cash flow. Earnings per share have been falling, and the company has cut its dividend at least once in the past. From a dividend perspective, this is a cause for concern. Using these criteria, Gentrack Group looks quite suboptimal from a dividend investment perspective.

Given that earnings are not growing, the dividend does not look nearly so attractive. Businesses can change though, and we think it would make sense to see what analysts are forecasting for the company.

If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding above 3%.

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.

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.