The board of HNI Corporation (NYSE:HNI) has announced that it will pay a dividend of $0.32 per share on the 1st of December. This means the annual payment is 3.4% of the current stock price, which is above the average for the industry.
HNI's Dividend Is Well Covered By Earnings
While it is great to have a strong dividend yield, we should also consider whether the payment is sustainable. Based on the last payment, HNI's profits didn't cover the dividend, but the company was generating enough cash instead. Generally, we think cash is more important than accounting measures of profit, so with the cash flows easily covering the dividend, we don't think there is much reason to worry.
Looking forward, earnings per share is forecast to rise exponentially over the next year. Assuming the dividend continues along recent trends, we estimate that the payout ratio could reach 46%, which is in a comfortable range for us.
HNI Has A Solid Track Record
The company has a sustained record of paying dividends with very little fluctuation. Since 2013, the dividend has gone from $0.96 total annually to $1.28. This means that it has been growing its distributions at 2.9% per annum over that time. Slow and steady dividend growth might not sound that exciting, but dividends have been stable for ten years, which we think makes this a fairly attractive offer.
The Dividend Has Limited Growth Potential
The company's investors will be pleased to have been receiving dividend income for some time. Unfortunately things aren't as good as they seem. HNI's earnings per share has shrunk at 16% a year over the past five years. A sharp decline in earnings per share is not great from from a dividend perspective. Even conservative payout ratios can come under pressure if earnings fall far enough. However, the next year is actually looking up, with earnings set to rise. We would just wait until it becomes a pattern before getting too excited.
An additional note is that the company has been raising capital by issuing stock equal to 13% of shares outstanding in the last 12 months. Trying to grow the dividend when issuing new shares reminds us of the ancient Greek tale of Sisyphus - perpetually pushing a boulder uphill. Companies that consistently issue new shares are often suboptimal from a dividend perspective.
Our Thoughts On HNI's Dividend
Overall, it's nice to see a consistent dividend payment, but we think that longer term, the current level of payment might be unsustainable. The company is generating plenty of cash, but we still think the dividend is a bit high for comfort. Overall, we don't think this company has the makings of a good income stock.
Investors generally tend to favour companies with a consistent, stable dividend policy as opposed to those operating an irregular one. However, there are other things to consider for investors when analysing stock performance. For instance, we've picked out 5 warning signs for HNI that investors should take into consideration. Is HNI not quite the opportunity you were looking for? Why not check out our selection of top dividend stocks.
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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.