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What To Know Before Buying HKBN Ltd. (HKG:1310) For Its Dividend

Simply Wall St

Is HKBN Ltd. (HKG:1310) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. 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.

In this case, HKBN likely looks attractive to dividend investors, given its 4.7% dividend yield and four-year payment history. We'd agree the yield does look enticing. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding HKBN for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on HKBN!

SEHK:1310 Historical Dividend Yield, October 1st 2019

Payout ratios

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. 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. In the last year, HKBN paid out 181% of its profit as dividends. 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. HKBN paid out 79% of its cash flow last year. This may be sustainable but it does not leave much of a buffer for unexpected circumstances. It's good to see that while HKBN's dividends were not covered by profits, at least they are affordable from a cash perspective. Still, if the company repeatedly paid a dividend greater than its profits, we'd be concerned. Extraordinarily few companies are capable of persistently paying a dividend that is greater than their profits.

Is HKBN's Balance Sheet Risky?

As HKBN's dividend was not well covered by earnings, we need to check its balance sheet for signs of financial distress. A quick check of its financial situation can be done with two ratios: net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and 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. With net debt of 3.32 times its EBITDA, investors are starting to take on a meaningful amount of risk, should the business enter a downturn.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. Interest cover of 4.97 times its interest expense is starting to become a concern for HKBN, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of HKBN's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

Dividend Volatility

Before buying a stock for its income, we want to see if the dividends have been stable in the past, and if the company has a track record of maintaining its dividend. HKBN has been paying a dividend for the past four years. The dividend has not fluctuated much, but with a relatively short payment history, we can't be sure this is sustainable across a full market cycle. During the past four-year period, the first annual payment was HK$0.20 in 2015, compared to HK$0.68 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 36% per year over this time.

HKBN has been growing its dividend quite rapidly, which is exciting. However, the short payment history makes us question whether this performance will persist across a full market cycle.

Dividend Growth Potential

Dividend payments have been consistent over the past few years, but we should always check if earnings per share (EPS) are growing, as this will help maintain the purchasing power of the dividend. It's good to see HKBN has been growing its earnings per share at 36% a year over the past five years. The company has been growing its EPS at a very rapid rate, while paying out virtually all of its income as dividends. While EPS could grow fast enough to make the dividend sustainable, in this type of situation, we'd want to pay extra attention to any fragilities in the company's balance sheet.

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. We're not keen on the fact that HKBN paid out such a high percentage of its income, although its cashflow is in better shape. We were also glad to see it growing earnings, although its dividend history is not as long as we'd like. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than HKBN out there.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 10 HKBN 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%.

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.