Dividend paying stocks like Graham Corporation (NYSE:GHM) 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. Yet sometimes, investors buy a stock for its dividend and lose money because the share price falls by more than they earned in dividend payments.
A slim 1.9% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, Graham could have potential. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Graham for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.
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. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. While Graham pays a dividend, it reported a loss over the last year. When a company recently reported a loss, we should investigate if its cash flows covered the dividend.
Graham paid out 476% of its free cash last year. Cash flows can be lumpy, but this dividend was not well covered by cash flow. Paying out such a high percentage of cash flow suggests that the dividend was funded from either cash at bank or by borrowing, neither of which is desirable over the long term.
With a strong net cash balance, Graham investors may not have much to worry about in the near term from a dividend perspective.
Consider getting our latest analysis on Graham's financial position here.
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 Graham's dividend payments. During this period the dividend has been stable, which could imply the business could have relatively consistent earnings power. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.08 in 2009, compared to US$0.40 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 17% per year over this time.
Dividends have been growing pretty quickly, and even more impressively, they haven't experienced any notable falls during this period.
Dividend Growth Potential
Dividend payments have been consistent over the past few years, but we should always check if earnings per share (EPS) are growing, as this will help maintain the purchasing power of the dividend. Graham's EPS have fallen by approximately 51% per year. A sharp decline in earnings per share is not great from from a dividend perspective, as even conservative payout ratios can come under pressure if earnings fall far enough.
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. Graham's dividend is not well covered by free cash flow, plus it paid a dividend while being unprofitable. It hasn't demonstrated a strong ability to grow earnings per share, but we like that the dividend payments have been fairly consistent. In this analysis, Graham doesn't shape up too well as a dividend stock. We'd find it hard to look past the flaws, and would not be inclined to think of it as a reliable dividend-payer.
Given that earnings are not growing, the dividend does not look nearly so attractive. Businesses can change though, and we think it would make sense to see what analysts are forecasting for the company.
If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding above 3%.
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