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Is Independence Group NL's (ASX:IGO) 2.5% Dividend Worth Your Time?

Simply Wall St

Could Independence Group NL (ASX:IGO) 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. Yet sometimes, investors buy a popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

A slim 2.5% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, Independence Group could have potential. Remember though, due to the recent spike in its share price, Independence Group's yield will look lower, even though the market may now be factoring in an improvement in its long-term prospects. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Independence Group for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Independence Group!

ASX:IGO Historical Dividend Yield, October 9th 2019

Payout ratios

Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. 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 78% of Independence Group's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. 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 also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Independence Group's cash payout ratio last year was 8.9%. Cash flows are typically lumpy, but this looks like an appropriately conservative payout. It's encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don't drop precipitously.

While the above analysis focuses on dividends relative to a company's earnings, we do note Independence Group's strong net cash position, which will let it pay larger dividends for a time, should it choose.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Independence Group's financial position here.

Dividend Volatility

Before buying a stock for its income, we want to see if the dividends have been stable in the past, and if the company has a track record of maintaining its dividend. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Independence Group'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 AU$0.04 in 2009, compared to AU$0.16 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 15% a year over that time. The growth in dividends has not been linear, but the CAGR is a decent approximation of the rate of change over this time frame.

So, its dividends have grown at a rapid rate over this time, but payments have been cut in the past. The stock may still be worth considering as part of a diversified dividend portfolio.

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. It's not great to see that Independence Group's have fallen at approximately 9.1% over the past five years. A modest decline in earnings per share is not great to see, but it doesn't automatically make a dividend unsustainable. Still, we'd vastly prefer to see EPS growth when researching dividend stocks.

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. Independence Group's payout ratios are within a normal range for the average corporation, and we like that its cashflow was stronger than reported profits. Earnings per share have been falling, and the company has cut its dividend at least once in the past. From a dividend perspective, this is a cause for concern. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than Independence Group out there.

Given that earnings are not growing, the dividend does not look nearly so attractive. See if the 12 analysts are forecasting a turnaround in our free collection of analyst estimates here.

If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding 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.