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Should Oceania Healthcare Limited (NZSE:OCA) Be Part Of Your Dividend Portfolio?

Simply Wall St

Dividend paying stocks like Oceania Healthcare Limited (NZSE:OCA) 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. On the other hand, investors have been known to buy a stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

Oceania Healthcare yields a solid 4.3%, although it has only been paying for two years. A 4.3% yield does look good. Could the short payment history hint at future dividend growth? Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Oceania Healthcare for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Oceania Healthcare!

NZSE:OCA Historical Dividend Yield, December 9th 2019

Payout ratios

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. 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 63% of Oceania Healthcare's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. This is a healthy payout ratio, and while it does limit the amount of earnings that can be reinvested in the business, there is also some room to lift the payout ratio over time.

We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. With a cash payout ratio of 173%, Oceania Healthcare's dividend payments are poorly covered by cash flow. Paying out more than 100% of your free cash flow in dividends is generally not a long-term, sustainable state of affairs, so we think shareholders should watch this metric closely. Oceania Healthcare paid out less in dividends than it reported in profits, but unfortunately it didn't generate enough free cash flow to cover the dividend. Were it to repeatedly pay dividends that were not well covered by cash flow, this could be a risk to Oceania Healthcare's ability to maintain its dividend.

Is Oceania Healthcare's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Oceania Healthcare 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). Oceania Healthcare has net debt of 18.36 times its EBITDA, which we think carries substantial risk if earnings aren't sustainable.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. Net interest cover of 10.14 times its interest expense appears reasonable for Oceania Healthcare, although we're conscious that even high interest cover doesn't make a company bulletproof. Adequate interest cover may make the debt look safe, relative to companies with a lower interest cover ratio. However with such a large mountain of debt overall, we're cautious of what could happen if interest rates rise.

We update our data on Oceania Healthcare 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. The dividend has not fluctuated much, but with a relatively short payment history, we can't be sure this is sustainable across a full market cycle. During the past two-year period, the first annual payment was NZ$0.042 in 2017, compared to NZ$0.047 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 5.8% per year over this time.

The dividend has been growing at a reasonable rate, which we like. We're conscious though that one of the best ways to detect a multi-decade consistent dividend-payer, is to watch a company pay dividends for 20 years - a distinction Oceania Healthcare has not achieved yet.

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. It's good to see Oceania Healthcare has been growing its earnings per share at 54% a year over the past five years. Earnings per share are sharply up, but we wonder if paying out more than half its earnings (leaving less for reinvestment) is an implicit signal that Oceania Healthcare's growth will be slower in the future.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Oceania Healthcare's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. Oceania Healthcare gets a pass on its dividend payout ratio, but it paid out virtually all of its cash flow as dividends. This may just be a one-off, but we'd keep an eye on this. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the company has not been paying dividends as long as we'd like. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Oceania Healthcare from a dividend perspective. It's not that we think it's a bad business; just that there are other companies that perform better on these criteria.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 4 Oceania Healthcare analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 3%.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.