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Dividend paying stocks like UCB SA (EBR:UCB) 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.
While UCB's 1.7% dividend yield is not the highest, we think its lengthy payment history is quite interesting. 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.
Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned, 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. Looking at the data, we can see that 29% of UCB'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. Plus, there is room to increase the payout ratio over time.
In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. UCB's cash payout ratio in the last year was 30%, which suggests dividends were well covered by cash generated by the business. It's positive to see that UCB's dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.
Consider getting our latest analysis on UCB's financial position here.
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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of UCB's dividend payments. During this period the dividend has been stable, which could imply the business could have relatively consistent earnings power. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was €0.92 in 2009, compared to €1.21 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 2.8% per year over this time.
Slow and steady dividend growth might not sound that exciting, but dividends have been stable for ten years, which we think is seriously impressive.
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 UCB has been growing its earnings per share at 56% a year over the past 5 years. Earnings per share have rocketed in recent times, and we like that the company is retaining more than half of its earnings to reinvest. However, always remember that very few companies can grow at double digit rates forever.
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. Firstly, we like that UCB has low and conservative payout ratios. We like that it has been delivering solid improvement in its earnings per share, and relatively consistent dividend payments. UCB has met all of our criteria, including having strong cash flow that covers the dividend. We definitely think it would be worthwhile looking closer.
Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 13 UCB 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 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.