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Here's How We Evaluate Nelnet, Inc.'s (NYSE:NNI) Dividend

Simply Wall St

Dividend paying stocks like Nelnet, Inc. (NYSE:NNI) 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. On the other hand, investors have been known to buy a stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

A 1.2% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests Nelnet has some staying power. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 2.0% of market capitalisation this year. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Nelnet for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NYSE:NNI Historical Dividend Yield, May 23rd 2019

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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, Nelnet paid out 18% of its profit as dividends. Given the low payout ratio, it is hard to envision the dividend coming under threat, barring a catastrophe.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Nelnet'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. Nelnet has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. The dividend has been stable over the past 10 years, which is great. We think this could suggest some resilience to the business and its dividends. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.28 in 2009, compared to US$0.72 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 9.9% per year over this time.


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. It's not great to see that Nelnet's have fallen at approximately 10% over the past five years. Declining earnings per share over a number of years is not a great sign for the dividend investor. Without some improvement, this does not bode well for the long term value of a company's dividend.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Nelnet's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. We're glad to see Nelnet has a low payout ratio, as this suggests earnings are being reinvested in the business. It's not great to see earnings per share shrinking. The dividends have been relatively consistent, but we wonder for how much longer this will be true. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than Nelnet out there.

See if management have their own wealth at stake, by checking insider shareholdings in Nelnet stock.

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.