Dividend paying stocks like DICK'S Sporting Goods, Inc. (NYSE:DKS) 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.
Investors might not know much about DICK'S Sporting Goods's dividend prospects, even though it has been paying dividends for the last nine years and offers a 2.2% yield. A low yield is generally a turn-off, but if the prospects for earnings growth were strong, investors might be pleasantly surprised by the long-term results. During the year, the company also conducted a buyback equivalent to around 9.3% of its market capitalisation. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding DICK'S Sporting Goods for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.
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 29% of DICK'S Sporting Goods's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. A medium payout ratio strikes a good balance between paying dividends, and keeping enough back to invest in the business. Besides, if reinvestment opportunities dry up, the company has room to increase the dividend.
In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. The company paid out 86% of its free cash flow as dividends last year, which is adequate, but reduces the wriggle room in the event of a downturn. 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.
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. Looking at the last decade of data, we can see that DICK'S Sporting Goods paid its first dividend at least nine years ago. It's good to see that DICK'S Sporting Goods has been paying a dividend for a number of years. However, the dividend has been cut at least once in the past, and we're concerned that what has been cut once, could be cut again. During the past nine-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.50 in 2011, compared to US$1.10 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 9.2% per year over this time. The dividends haven't grown at precisely 9.2% every year, but this is a useful way to average out the historical rate of growth.
A reasonable rate of dividend growth is good to see, but we're wary that the dividend history is not as solid as we'd like, having been cut at least once.
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. Earnings have grown at around 5.9% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! It's good to see decent earnings growth and a low payout ratio. Companies with these characteristics often display the fastest dividend growth over the long term - assuming earnings can be maintained, of course.
To summarise, shareholders should always check that DICK'S Sporting Goods's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. DICK'S Sporting Goods's dividend payout ratios are within normal bounds, although we note its cash flow is not as strong as the income statement would suggest. Unfortunately, earnings growth has also been mediocre, and the company has cut its dividend at least once in the past. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than DICK'S Sporting Goods out there.
Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 22 DICK'S Sporting Goods analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates 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%.
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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