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Here's How We Evaluate Altra Industrial Motion Corp.'s (NASDAQ:AIMC) Dividend

Simply Wall St

Is Altra Industrial Motion Corp. (NASDAQ:AIMC) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. 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 2.2% yield and a seven-year payment history, investors probably think Altra Industrial Motion looks like a reliable dividend stock. While the yield may not look too great, the relatively long payment history is interesting. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Altra Industrial Motion for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Altra Industrial Motion!

NasdaqGS:AIMC Historical Dividend Yield, October 30th 2019

Payout ratios

Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. 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. Looking at the data, we can see that 51% of Altra Industrial Motion's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. This is a healthy payout ratio, and while it does limit the amount of earnings that can be reinvested in the business, there is also some room to lift the payout ratio over time.

We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Altra Industrial Motion paid out 21% of its free cash flow as dividends last year, which is conservative and suggests the dividend is sustainable. It's positive to see that Altra Industrial Motion's dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.

Is Altra Industrial Motion's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Altra Industrial Motion has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. 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. Altra Industrial Motion has net debt of 3.88 times its EBITDA, which is getting towards the limit of most investors' comfort zones. Judicious use of debt can enhance shareholder returns, but also adds to the risk if something goes awry.

We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company's net interest expense. With EBIT of 3.10 times its interest expense, Altra Industrial Motion's interest cover is starting to look a bit thin.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Altra Industrial Motion'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. Looking at the data, we can see that Altra Industrial Motion has been paying a dividend for the past seven years. Its dividend has not fluctuated much that time, which we like, but we're conscious that the company might not yet have a track record of maintaining dividends in all economic conditions. During the past seven-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.20 in 2012, compared to US$0.68 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 19% a year over that time.

Altra Industrial Motion has been growing its dividend quite rapidly, which is exciting. However, the short payment history makes us question whether this performance will persist across a full market cycle.

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. Over the past five years, it looks as though Altra Industrial Motion's EPS have declined at around 2.6% a year. A modest decline in earnings per share is not great to see, but it doesn't automatically make a dividend unsustainable. Still, we'd vastly prefer to see EPS growth when researching dividend stocks.

Conclusion

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. First, we think Altra Industrial Motion has an acceptable payout ratio and its dividend is well covered by cashflow. Earnings per share have been falling, and the company has a relatively short dividend history - shorter than we like, anyway. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than Altra Industrial Motion out there.

Without at least some growth in earnings per share over time, the dividend will eventually come under pressure either from costs or inflation. Businesses can change though, and we think it would make sense to see what analysts are forecasting for the company.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield 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.