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Is Poste Italiane SpA (BIT:PST) A Smart Pick For Income Investors?

Simply Wall St

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Dividend paying stocks like Poste Italiane SpA (BIT:PST) 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 popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

Poste Italiane yields a solid 4.6%, although it has only been paying for three years. A high yield probably looks enticing, but investors are likely wondering about the short payment history. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Poste Italiane for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Poste Italiane!

BIT:PST Historical Dividend Yield, July 19th 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. In the last year, Poste Italiane paid out 43% of its profit as dividends. This is a middling range that strikes a nice balance between paying dividends to shareholders, and retaining enough earnings to invest in future growth. Plus, there is room to increase the payout ratio over time.

We update our data on Poste Italiane every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, 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. 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 three-year period, the first annual payment was €0.34 in 2016, compared to €0.44 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 9.1% per year over this time.

Poste Italiane has been growing its dividend at a decent rate, and the payments have been stable despite the short payment history. This is a positive start.

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. Earnings have grown at around 6.2% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! Earnings per share have been growing at a credible rate. What's more, the payout ratio is reasonable and provides some protection to the dividend, or even the potential to increase it.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Poste Italiane's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. Firstly, we like that Poste Italiane has a low and conservative payout ratio. Second, earnings growth has been ordinary, and its history of dividend payments is shorter than we'd like. Poste Italiane might not be a bad business, but it doesn't show all of the characteristics we look for in a dividend stock.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 8 analysts we track are forecasting for Poste Italiane 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.