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Is High Arctic Energy Services Inc (TSE:HWO) A Risky Dividend Stock?

Simply Wall St

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Dividend paying stocks like High Arctic Energy Services Inc (TSE:HWO) 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. If you are hoping to live on the income from dividends, it's important to be a lot more stringent with your investments than the average punter.

In this case, High Arctic Energy Services likely looks attractive to dividend investors, given its 5.4% dividend yield and seven-year payment history. We'd agree the yield does look enticing. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 6.0% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying High Arctic Energy Services for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on High Arctic Energy Services!

TSX:HWO Historical Dividend Yield, May 14th 2019

Payout ratios

Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. 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. In the last year, High Arctic Energy Services paid out 125% 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.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. High Arctic Energy Services paid out a conservative 37% of its free cash flow as dividends last year.


Consider getting our latest analysis on High Arctic Energy Services'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. High Arctic Energy Services 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 CA$0.12 in 2012, compared to CA$0.20 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 7.4% a year over that time.

The dividend has been growing at a reasonable rate, which we like. We're conscious though that one of the best ways to detect a multi-decade consistent dividend payer, is to watch a company pay dividends for 20 years - a distinction High Arctic Energy Services has not achieved yet.

Dividend Growth Potential

The other half of the dividend investing equation is evaluating whether earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Growing EPS can help maintain or increase the purchasing power of the dividend over the long run. Over the past five years, it looks as though High Arctic Energy Services's EPS have declined at around 25% a year. 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

Dividend investors should always want to know if a) a company's dividends are affordable, b) if there is a track record of consistent payments, and c) if the dividend is capable of growing. We're not keen on the fact that High Arctic Energy Services paid out such a high percentage of its income, although its cashflow is in better shape. Earnings per share are down, and to our mind High Arctic Energy Services has not been paying a dividend long enough to demonstrate its resilience across economic cycles. In summary, High Arctic Energy Services has a number of shortcomings that we'd find it hard to get past. Things could change, but we think there are a number of better ideas 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. See if the 4 analysts are forecasting a turnaround in our free collection of analyst estimates here.

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.