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Would Perrigo Company plc (NYSE:PRGO) Be Valuable To Income Investors?

Simply Wall St

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Dividend paying stocks like Perrigo Company plc (NYSE:PRGO) 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. Yet sometimes, investors buy a stock for its dividend and lose money because the share price falls by more than they earned in dividend payments.

A 1.9% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests Perrigo has some staying power. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 4.9% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Perrigo for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Perrigo!

NYSE:PRGO Historical Dividend Yield, June 17th 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. 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 91% of Perrigo's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. 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. Perrigo's cash payout ratio in the last year was 28%, which suggests dividends were well covered by cash generated by the business. While the dividend was not well covered by profits, at least they were covered by free cash flow. Still, if the company continues paying out such a high percentage of its profits, the dividend could be at risk if business turns sour.

Is Perrigo's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Perrigo's dividend was not well covered by earnings, we need to check its balance sheet for signs of financial distress. A rough way to check this is with these two simple ratios: a) net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and b) net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA measures a company's total debt load relative to its earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the company's ability to pay the interest on its debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). With net debt of more than twice its EBITDA, Perrigo has a noticeable amount of debt, although if business stays steady, this may not be overly concerning.

We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company's net interest expense. Interest cover of less than 5x its interest expense is starting to become a concern for Perrigo, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well.

We update our data on Perrigo 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. Perrigo has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. During this period the dividend has been stable, which could imply the business could have relatively consistent earnings power. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.22 in 2009, compared to US$0.84 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 14% a year over that time.

Dividends have been growing pretty quickly, and even more impressively, they haven't experienced any notable falls during this period.

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. It's not great to see that Perrigo's have fallen at approximately 21% over the past five years. 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

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 actually shrunk, but at least the dividends have been relatively stable. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Perrigo 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.

Without at least some growth in earnings per share over time, the dividend will eventually come under pressure either from costs or inflation. See if the 11 analysts are forecasting a turnaround in our free collection of analyst estimates here.

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.