Today we'll take a closer look at National Instruments Corporation (NASDAQ:NATI) from a dividend investor's perspective. Owning a strong business and reinvesting the dividends is widely seen as an attractive way of growing your wealth. 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.
A 2.6% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests National Instruments has some staying power. The company also returned around 2.6% of its market capitalisation to shareholders in the form of stock buybacks over the past year. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying National Instruments for its dividend - read on to learn more.
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. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Looking at the data, we can see that 81% of National Instruments's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. Paying out a majority of its earnings limits the amount that can be reinvested in the business. This may indicate a commitment to paying a dividend, or a dearth of investment opportunities.
Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. The company paid out 86% of its free cash flow as dividends last year, which is adequate, but reduces the wriggle room in the event of a downturn. It's encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don't drop precipitously.
With a strong net cash balance, National Instruments investors may not have much to worry about in the near term from a dividend perspective.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of National Instruments's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.
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. National Instruments has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. The dividend has been stable over the past 10 years, which is great. We think this could suggest some resilience to the business and its dividends. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.32 in 2010, compared to US$1.04 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 13% per year over this time.
Dividends have been growing pretty quickly, and even more impressively, they haven't experienced any notable falls during this period.
Dividend Growth Potential
While dividend payments have been relatively reliable, it would also be nice if earnings per share (EPS) were growing, as this is essential to maintaining the dividend's purchasing power over the long term. National Instruments has grown its earnings per share at 4.4% per annum over the past five years. There are exceptions, but limited earnings growth and a high payout ratio can signal that a company is struggling to grow. That's fine as far as it goes, but we're less enthusiastic as this often signals that the dividend is likely to grow slower in the future.
To summarise, shareholders should always check that National Instruments's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. National Instruments's is paying out more than half its income as dividends, but at least the dividend is covered by both reported earnings and cashflow. Second, earnings growth has been mediocre, but at least the dividends have been relatively stable. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than National Instruments out there.
Investors generally tend to favour companies with a consistent, stable dividend policy as opposed to those operating an irregular one. Still, investors need to consider a host of other factors, apart from dividend payments, when analysing a company. For instance, we've picked out 1 warning sign for National Instruments that investors should take into consideration.
We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 3%.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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