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Independent Bank Corporation (NASDAQ:IBCP) Is Yielding 3.3% - But Is It A Buy?

Simply Wall St

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Today we'll take a closer look at Independent Bank Corporation (NASDAQ:IBCP) from a dividend investor's perspective. Owning a strong business and reinvesting the dividends is widely seen as an attractive way of growing your wealth. 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.

In this case, Independent Bank likely looks attractive to investors, given its 3.3% dividend yield and a payment history of over ten years. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 2.9% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Independent Bank for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NasdaqGS:IBCP Historical Dividend Yield, July 15th 2019

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. 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. Independent Bank paid out 38% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. This is a medium payout level that leaves enough capital in the business to fund opportunities that might arise, while also rewarding shareholders. Plus, there is room to increase the payout ratio over time.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Independent Bank'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. Independent Bank has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. This dividend has been unstable, which we define as having fallen by at least 20% one or more times over this time. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.40 in 2009, compared to US$0.72 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 6.1% a year over that time. The dividends haven't grown at precisely 6.1% every year, but this is a useful way to average out the historical rate of growth.

It's good to see the dividend growing at a decent rate, but the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. Independent Bank might have put its house in order since then, but we remain cautious.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, it's even more important to see if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Why take the risk of a dividend getting cut, unless there's a good chance of bigger dividends in future? It's not great to see that Independent Bank's have fallen at approximately 22% 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

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. Firstly, we like that Independent Bank has a low and conservative payout ratio. Earnings per share are down, and Independent Bank's dividend has been cut at least once in the past, which is disappointing. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than Independent Bank out there.

Given that earnings are not growing, the dividend does not look nearly so attractive. See if the 5 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.