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Here's How We Evaluate The Becker Milk Company Limited's (TSE:BEK.B) Dividend

Simply Wall St

Could The Becker Milk Company Limited (TSE:BEK.B) 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. Yet sometimes, investors buy a stock for its dividend and lose money because the share price falls by more than they earned in dividend payments.

A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for Becker Milk. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Becker Milk!

TSX:BEK.B Historical Dividend Yield, December 6th 2019

Payout ratios

Dividends are usually paid out of company earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, 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, Becker Milk paid out 103% 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.

We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Becker Milk paid out 102% of its free cash flow last year, which we think is concerning if cash flows do not improve. Cash is slightly more important than profit from a dividend perspective, but given Becker Milk's payouts were not well covered by either earnings or cash flow, we would definitely be concerned about the sustainability of this dividend.

While the above analysis focuses on dividends relative to a company's earnings, we do note Becker Milk'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 Becker Milk's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

Dividend Volatility

One of the major risks of relying on dividend income, is the potential for a company to struggle financially and cut its dividend. Not only is your income cut, but the value of your investment declines as well - nasty. Becker Milk has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. During this period the dividend has been stable, which could imply the business could have relatively consistent earnings power. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was CA$0.60 in 2009, compared to CA$0.80 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 2.9% per year over this time.

While the consistency in the dividend payments is impressive, we think the relatively slow rate of growth is unappealing.

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 Becker Milk has grown its earnings per share at 55% 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. While EPS could grow fast enough to make the dividend sustainable, in this type of situation, we'd want to pay extra attention to any fragilities in the company's balance sheet.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Becker Milk's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. Becker Milk paid out almost all of its cash flow and profit as dividends, leaving little to reinvest in the business. We like that it has been delivering solid improvement in its earnings per share, and relatively consistent dividend payments. Ultimately, Becker Milk comes up short on our dividend analysis. It's not that we think it is a bad company - just that there are likely more appealing dividend prospects out there on this analysis.

Now, if you want to look closer, it would be worth checking out our free research on Becker Milk management tenure, salary, and performance.

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.