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Here's How We Evaluate Blackmores Limited's (ASX:BKL) Dividend

Simply Wall St

Today we'll take a closer look at Blackmores Limited (ASX:BKL) 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.

A slim 2.6% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, Blackmores could have potential. 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 Blackmores!

ASX:BKL Historical Dividend Yield, January 3rd 2020
ASX:BKL Historical Dividend Yield, January 3rd 2020

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. Blackmores paid out 71% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. 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. Unfortunately, while Blackmores pays a dividend, it also reported negative free cash flow last year. While there may be a good reason for this, it's not ideal from a dividend perspective.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Blackmores's financial position here.

Dividend Volatility

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. Blackmores has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. This dividend has been unstable, which we define as having fallen by at least 20% one or more times over this time. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was AU$0.90 in 2010, compared to AU$2.20 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 9.3% per year over this time. The growth in dividends has not been linear, but the CAGR is a decent approximation of the rate of change over this time frame.

Dividends have grown at a reasonable rate, but with at least one substantial cut in the payments, we're not certain this dividend stock would be ideal for someone intending to live on the income.

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. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Blackmores has grown its earnings per share at 16% per annum over the past five years. Blackmores's earnings per share have grown rapidly in recent years, although more than half of its profits are being paid out as dividends, which makes us wonder if the company has a limited number of reinvestment opportunities in its business.

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 Blackmores has an acceptable payout ratio, although its dividend was not well covered by cashflow. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Blackmores from a dividend perspective. It's not that we think it's a bad business; just that there are other companies that perform better on these criteria.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 9 Blackmores 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%.

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.