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Are You An Income Investor? Don't Miss Out On Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE:DRI)

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Dividend paying stocks like Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE:DRI) 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, Darden Restaurants likely looks attractive to investors, given its 3.0% dividend yield and a payment history of over ten years. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. The company also returned around 1.6% of its market capitalisation to shareholders in the form of stock buybacks over the past year. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Darden Restaurants!

NYSE:DRI Historical Dividend Yield, December 19th 2019
NYSE:DRI Historical Dividend Yield, December 19th 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. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Looking at the data, we can see that 53% of Darden Restaurants's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. This is a fairly normal payout ratio among most businesses. It allows a higher dividend to be paid to shareholders, but does limit the capital retained in the business - which could be good or bad.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Darden Restaurants's cash payout ratio in the last year was 47%, which suggests dividends were well covered by cash generated by the business. It's positive to see that Darden Restaurants's dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.

We update our data on Darden Restaurants 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 Darden Restaurants's dividend 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$0.80 in 2009, compared to US$3.52 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 16% a year over that time.

Dividends have been growing pretty quickly, and even more impressively, they haven't experienced any notable falls during this period.

Dividend Growth Potential

While dividend payments have been relatively reliable, it would also be nice if earnings per share (EPS) were growing, as this is essential to maintaining the dividend's purchasing power over the long term. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Darden Restaurants has grown its earnings per share at 33% per annum over the past five years. With recent, rapid earnings per share growth and a payout ratio of 53%, this business looks like an interesting prospect if earnings are reinvested effectively.

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. Darden Restaurants's payout ratios are within a normal range for the average corporation, and we like that its cashflow was stronger than reported profits. Next, growing earnings per share and steady dividend payments is a great combination. All things considered, Darden Restaurants looks like a strong prospect. At the right valuation, it could be something special.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 28 analysts we track are forecasting for Darden Restaurants for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield 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.