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Here's How We Evaluate Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited's (HKG:388) Dividend

Simply Wall St

Could Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKG:388) 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. Unfortunately, it's common for investors to be enticed in by the seemingly attractive yield, and lose money when the company has to cut its dividend payments.

While Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing's 2.7% dividend yield is not the highest, we think its lengthy payment history is quite interesting. 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 Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing!

SEHK:388 Historical Dividend Yield, August 7th 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. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing paid out 89% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. Paying out a majority of its earnings limits the amount that can be reinvested in the business. This may indicate a commitment to paying a dividend, or a dearth of investment opportunities.

We update our data on Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, 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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing's dividend payments. The dividend has been cut by more than 20% on at least one occasion historically. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was HK$4.29 in 2009, compared to HK$6.71 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 4.6% a year over that time. The dividends haven't grown at precisely 4.6% every year, but this is a useful way to average out the historical rate of growth.

Modest growth in the dividend is good to see, but we think this is offset by historical cuts to the payments. It is hard to live on a dividend income if the company's earnings are not consistent.

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 Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing has grown its earnings per share at 14% per annum over the past five years. Earnings per share are growing nicely, but the company is paying out most of its earnings as dividends. This might be sustainable, but we wonder why Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing is not retaining those earnings to reinvest in growth.

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. Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing's payout ratio is within normal bounds. Second, earnings per share have been essentially flat, and its history of dividend payments is chequered - having cut its dividend at least once in the past. Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing might not be a bad business, but it doesn't show all of the characteristics we look for in a dividend stock.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 15 Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company.

We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 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.