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Is Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital, Inc. (NYSE:HASI) A Good Dividend Stock?

Simply Wall St

Dividend paying stocks like Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital, Inc. (NYSE:HASI) 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.

With a six-year payment history and a 4.7% yield, many investors probably find Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital intriguing. We'd agree the yield does look enticing. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we'll go through this below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital!

NYSE:HASI Historical Dividend Yield, October 18th 2019

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. In the last year, Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital paid out 154% of its profit as dividends. 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.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital paid out 120% of its free cash flow last year, suggesting the dividend is poorly covered by cash flow. Cash is slightly more important than profit from a dividend perspective, but given Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital's payments were not well covered by either earnings or cash flow, we are concerned about the sustainability of this dividend.

REITs like Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital often have different rules governing their distributions, so a higher payout ratio on its own is not unusual.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital's financial position here.

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. Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital has been paying a dividend for the past six years. The company has been paying a stable dividend for a while now, which is great. However we'd prefer to see consistency for a few more years before giving it our full seal of approval. During the past six-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.24 in 2013, compared to US$1.34 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 33% per year over this time.

We're not overly excited about the relatively short history of dividend payments, however the dividend is growing at a nice rate and we might take a closer look.

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 Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital has grown its earnings per share at 35% per annum over the past five years. Earnings per share have been growing very rapidly, although the company is also paying out virtually all of its profit in dividends. Generally, a company that is growing rapidly while paying out a majority of its earnings, is seeing its debt burden increase. We'd be conscious of any extra risk added by this practice.

We'd also point out that Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital issued a meaningful number of new shares in the past year. Regularly issuing new shares can be detrimental - it's hard to grow dividends per share when new shares are regularly being created.

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. Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital paid out almost all of its cash flow and profit as dividends, leaving little to reinvest in the business. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the company has not been paying dividends as long as we'd like. Overall, Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital falls short in several key areas here. Unless the investor has strong grounds for an alternative conclusion, we find it hard to get interested in a dividend stock with these characteristics.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 8 Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates 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%.

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.