Dividend paying stocks like Kinder Morgan, Inc. (NYSE:KMI) 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 the income from dividends, it's important to be a lot more stringent with your investments than the average punter.
With a eight-year payment history and a 4.9% yield, many investors probably find Kinder Morgan intriguing. We'd agree the yield does look enticing. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we'll go through this 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. In the last year, Kinder Morgan paid out 90% of its profit as dividends. Its payout ratio is quite high, and the dividend is not well covered by earnings. If earnings are growing or the company has a large cash balance, this might be sustainable - still, we think it is a concern.
In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Kinder Morgan paid out 98% of its free cash flow last year, which we think is concerning if cash flows do not improve. Cash is slightly more important than profit from a dividend perspective, but given Kinder Morgan's payments were not well covered by either earnings or cash flow, we are concerned about the sustainability of this dividend.
Is Kinder Morgan's Balance Sheet Risky?
As Kinder Morgan'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 is a measure of a company's total debt. Net interest cover measures the ability to meet interest payments. Essentially we check that a) the company does not have too much debt, and b) that it can afford to pay the interest. Kinder Morgan has net debt of 5.62 times its EBITDA, which implies meaningful risk if interest rates rise of earnings decline.
Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. Interest cover of 2.17 times its interest expense is starting to become a concern for Kinder Morgan, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well. Low interest cover and high debt can create problems right when the investor least needs them, and we're reluctant to rely on the dividend of companies with these traits.
Consider getting our latest analysis on Kinder Morgan's financial position here.
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. The first recorded dividend for Kinder Morgan, in the last decade, was eight years ago. Although it has been paying a dividend for several years now, the dividend has been cut at least once by more than 20%, and we're cautious about the consistency of its dividend across a full economic cycle. During the past eight-year period, the first annual payment was US$1.16 in 2011, compared to US$1.00 last year. This works out to be a decline of approximately 1.8% per year over that time. Kinder Morgan's dividend hasn't shrunk linearly at 1.8% per annum, but the CAGR is a useful estimate of the historical rate of change.
A shrinking dividend over a eight-year period is not ideal, and we'd be concerned about investing in a dividend stock that lacks a solid record of growing dividends per share.
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? In the last five years, Kinder Morgan's earnings per share have shrunk at approximately 2.8% per annum. If earnings continue to decline, the dividend may come under pressure. Every investor should make an assessment of whether the company is taking steps to stabilise the situation.
To summarise, shareholders should always check that Kinder Morgan's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. It's a concern to see that the company paid out such a high percentage of its earnings and cashflow as dividends. Earnings per share are down, and Kinder Morgan's dividend has been cut at least once in the past, which is disappointing. In this analysis, Kinder Morgan 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. See if the 13 analysts are forecasting a turnaround in our free collection of analyst estimates here.
We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 3%.
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.