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KeyCorp (NYSE:KEY) Has Got What It Takes To Be An Attractive Dividend Stock

Simply Wall St

Is KeyCorp (NYSE:KEY) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. Unfortunately, it's common for investors to be enticed in by the seemingly attractive yield, and lose money when the company has to cut its dividend payments.

A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for KeyCorp. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 4.5% of market capitalisation this year. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we'll go through this below.

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NYSE:KEY Historical Dividend Yield, January 1st 2020

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. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. In the last year, KeyCorp paid out 43% of its profit as dividends. 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.

We update our data on KeyCorp every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

Dividend Volatility

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 KeyCorp's dividend 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$0.25 in 2010, compared to US$0.74 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 11% a year over that time. KeyCorp's dividend payments have fluctuated, so it hasn't grown 11% every year, but the CAGR is a useful rule of thumb for approximating the historical growth.

KeyCorp has grown distributions at a rapid rate despite cutting the dividend at least once in the past. Companies that cut once often cut again, but it might be worth considering if the business has turned a corner.

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? Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see KeyCorp has grown its earnings per share at 12% per annum over the past five years. Earnings per share have been growing at a good rate, and the company is paying less than half its earnings as dividends. We generally think this is an attractive combination, as it permits further reinvestment in the business.

Conclusion

When we look at a dividend stock, we need to form a judgement on whether the dividend will grow, if the company is able to maintain it in a wide range of economic circumstances, and if the dividend payout is sustainable. We're glad to see KeyCorp has a low payout ratio, as this suggests earnings are being reinvested in the business. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. KeyCorp has a credible record on several fronts, but falls slightly short of our standards for a dividend stock.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 14 analysts we track are forecasting for KeyCorp for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 3%.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.