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Investors In GWA Group Limited (ASX:GWA) Should Consider This, First

Simply Wall St

Dividend paying stocks like GWA Group Limited (ASX:GWA) 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 your dividends, it's important to be more stringent with your investments than the average punter. Regular readers know we like to apply the same approach to each dividend stock, and we hope you'll find our analysis useful.

A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for GWA Group. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying GWA Group for its dividend - read on to learn more.

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

ASX:GWA Historical Dividend Yield, November 18th 2019
ASX:GWA Historical Dividend Yield, November 18th 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. 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. Looking at the data, we can see that 111% of GWA Group's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, from the perspective of an investor who hopes to own the company for many years, a payout ratio of above 100% is definitely a concern.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. GWA Group paid out 95% of its free cash flow last year, suggesting the dividend is poorly covered by cash flow. As GWA Group's dividend was not well covered by either earnings or cash flow, we would be concerned that this dividend could be at risk over the long term.

Is GWA Group's Balance Sheet Risky?

As GWA Group's dividend was not well covered by earnings, we need to check its balance sheet for signs of financial distress. A rough way to check this is with these two simple ratios: a) net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and b) net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA measures total debt load relative to company earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the ability to pay interest on the debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). GWA Group has net debt of 1.73 times its EBITDA, which is generally an okay level of debt for most companies.

We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company's net interest expense. GWA Group has interest cover of more than 12 times its interest expense, which we think is quite strong.

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

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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of GWA Group's dividend payments. Its dividend payments have fallen by 20% or more on at least one occasion over the past ten years. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was AU$0.19 in 2009, compared to AU$0.18 last year. The dividend has shrunk at a rate of less than 1% a year over this period.

When a company's per-share dividend falls we question if this reflects poorly on either external business conditions, or the company's capital allocation decisions. Either way, we find it hard to get excited about a company with a declining dividend.

Dividend Growth Potential

Given that the dividend has been cut in the past, we need to check if earnings are growing and if that might lead to stronger dividends in the future. It's good to see GWA Group has been growing its earnings per share at 10% a year over the past five years. With a payout ratio of 111%, GWA Group is paying out substantially more than it earned in dividends. This is a risky practice.

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. It's a concern to see that the company paid out such a high percentage of its earnings and cashflow as dividends. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. Overall, GWA Group falls short in several key areas here. Unless the investor has strong grounds for an alternative conclusion, we find it hard to get interested in a dividend stock with these characteristics.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 8 GWA Group analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company.

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