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Is KONE Oyj's (HEL:KNEBV) 3.1% Dividend Sustainable?

Simply Wall St

Dividend paying stocks like KONE Oyj (HEL:KNEBV) 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.

In this case, KONE Oyj likely looks attractive to investors, given its 3.1% dividend yield and a payment history of over ten years. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. 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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HLSE:KNEBV Historical Dividend Yield, August 31st 2019

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. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. KONE Oyj paid out 100% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. 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. KONE Oyj paid out 89% 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 KONE Oyj'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. Very few companies are able to sustainably pay dividends larger than their reported earnings.

Consider getting our latest analysis on KONE Oyj's financial position here.

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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of KONE Oyj's dividend payments. The dividend has been cut by more than 20% on at least one occasion historically. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was €0.33 in 2009, compared to €1.65 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 18% per year over this time. The growth in dividends has not been linear, but the CAGR is a decent approximation of the rate of change over this time frame.

It's not great to see that the payment has been cut in the past. We're generally more wary of companies that have cut their dividend before, as they tend to perform worse in an economic downturn.

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? KONE Oyj has grown its earnings per share at 3.7% per annum over the past five years. This level of earnings growth is low, and the company is paying out 100% of its profit. Limited recent earnings growth and a high payout ratio makes it hard for us to envision strong future dividend growth, unless the company should have substantial pricing power or some form of competitive advantage.

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 a bit uncomfortable with its high payout ratio, although at least the dividend was covered by free cash flow. Second, earnings per share have been essentially flat, and its history of dividend payments is chequered - having cut its dividend at least once in the past. With this information in mind, we think KONE Oyj may not be an ideal dividend stock.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 23 analysts we track are forecasting for KONE Oyj for free with public 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.