Today we'll take a closer look at Iren SpA (BIT:IRE) 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.
A slim 2.8% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, Iren could have potential. Before you buy any stock for its dividend however, you should always remember Warren Buffett's two rules: 1) Don't lose money, and 2) Remember rule #1. We'll run through some checks below to help with this.
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 55% of Iren's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. A payout ratio above 50% generally implies a business is reaching maturity, although it is still possible to reinvest in the business or increase the dividend over time.
We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. The company paid out 63% of its free cash flow, which is not bad per se, but does start to limit the amount of cash Iren has available to meet other needs. 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.
Is Iren's Balance Sheet Risky?
As Iren has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. 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). Iren is carrying net debt of 3.71 times its EBITDA, which is getting towards the upper limit of our comfort range on a dividend stock that the investor hopes will endure a wide range of economic circumstances.
Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. With EBIT of 4.65 times its interest expense, Iren's interest cover is starting to look a bit thin.
Consider getting our latest analysis on Iren'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 Iren's dividend payments. Its dividend payments have declined on at least one occasion over the past ten years. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was €0.085 in 2010, compared to €0.084 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
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 good to see Iren has been growing its earnings per share at 19% a year over the past five years. Earnings per share have been growing rapidly, but given that it is paying out more than half of its earnings as dividends, we wonder how Iren will keep funding its growth projects in the future.
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. First, we think Iren is paying out an acceptable percentage of its cashflow and profit. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Iren from a dividend perspective. It's not that we think it's a bad business; just that there are other companies that perform better on these criteria.
Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 5 analysts we track are forecasting for Iren 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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