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Is Melco Resorts & Entertainment Limited (NASDAQ:MLCO) A Good Dividend Stock?

Simply Wall St

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Is Melco Resorts & Entertainment Limited (NASDAQ:MLCO) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. Yet sometimes, investors buy a popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

With a 2.9% yield and a five-year payment history, investors probably think Melco Resorts & Entertainment looks like a reliable dividend stock. While the yield may not look too great, the relatively long payment history is interesting. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 6.5% of market capitalisation this year. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Melco Resorts & Entertainment for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Melco Resorts & Entertainment!

NasdaqGS:MLCO Historical Dividend Yield, July 1st 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. Melco Resorts & Entertainment paid out 92% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. This is quite a high payout ratio that suggests the dividend is not well covered by earnings.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Melco Resorts & Entertainment paid out 61% of its cash flow as dividends last year, which is within a reasonable range for the average corporation. While the dividend was not well covered by profits, at least they were covered by free cash flow. Even so, if the company were to continue paying out almost all of its profits, we'd be concerned about whether the dividend is sustainable in a downturn.

Is Melco Resorts & Entertainment's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Melco Resorts & Entertainment has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. 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 measures total debt load relative to company earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the ability to pay interest on the debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). With net debt of 2.51 times its EBITDA, Melco Resorts & Entertainment has a noticeable amount of debt, although if business stays steady, this may not be overly concerning.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. With EBIT of 2.16 times its interest expense, Melco Resorts & Entertainment's interest cover is starting to look a bit thin.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Melco Resorts & Entertainment'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. Looking at the data, we can see that Melco Resorts & Entertainment has been paying a dividend for the past five years. During the past five-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.52 in 2014, compared to US$0.62 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 3.7% a year over that time.

We're glad to see the dividend has risen, but with a limited rate of growth and fluctuations in the payments, we don't think this is an attractive combination.

Dividend Growth Potential

The other half of the dividend investing equation is evaluating whether earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Growing EPS can help maintain or increase the purchasing power of the dividend over the long run. In the last five years, Melco Resorts & Entertainment's earnings per share have shrunk at approximately 11% per annum. If earnings continue to decline, the dividend may come under pressure. Every investor should make an assessment of whether the company is taking steps to stabilise the situation.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Melco Resorts & Entertainment's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. We're not keen on the fact that Melco Resorts & Entertainment paid out such a high percentage of its income, although its cashflow is in better shape. Second, earnings per share have been in decline, and its dividend has been cut at least once in the past. There are a few too many issues for us to get comfortable with Melco Resorts & Entertainment from a dividend perspective. Businesses can change, but we would struggle to identify why an investor should rely on this stock for their income.

Given that earnings are not growing, the dividend does not look nearly so attractive. Businesses can change though, and we think it would make sense to see what analysts are forecasting 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.