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You Have To Love Enerplus Corporation's (TSE:ERF) Dividend

Simply Wall St

Is Enerplus Corporation (TSE:ERF) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. Unfortunately, it's common for investors to be enticed in by the seemingly attractive yield, and lose money when the company has to cut its dividend payments.

A slim 1.5% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, Enerplus could have potential. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 8.9% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we'll go through this below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Enerplus!

TSX:ERF Historical Dividend Yield, August 15th 2019
TSX:ERF Historical Dividend Yield, August 15th 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. Looking at the data, we can see that 6.6% of Enerplus's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. With a low payout ratio, it looks like the dividend is comprehensively covered by earnings.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Enerplus paid out 21% of its free cash flow as dividends last year, which is conservative and suggests the dividend is sustainable. It's positive to see that Enerplus'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.

We update our data on Enerplus every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

Dividend Volatility

From the perspective of an income investor who wants to earn dividends for many years, there is not much point buying a stock if its dividend is regularly cut or is not reliable. Enerplus has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. This company's dividend has not fluctuated wildly, but its dividend per share payments have still decreased substantially over this time, which is not ideal. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was CA$5.64 in 2009, compared to CA$0.12 last year. This works out to a decline of approximately 98% over that time.

A shrinking dividend over a ten-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

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. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Enerplus has grown its earnings per share at 50% per annum over the past five years. The company is only paying out a fraction of its earnings as dividends, and in the past been able to use the retained earnings to grow its profits rapidly - an ideal combination.

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. It's great to see that Enerplus is paying out a low percentage of its earnings and cash flow. It hasn't demonstrated a strong ability to grow earnings per share, but we like that the dividend payments have been fairly consistent. All these things considered, we think this organisation has a lot going for it from a dividend perspective.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 3 analysts we track are forecasting for Enerplus for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 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.