Dividend paying stocks like Probiotec Limited (ASX:PBP) 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.
A 1.8% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests Probiotec has some staying power. During the year, the company also conducted a buyback equivalent to around 3.3% of its market capitalisation. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we'll go through this below.
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. Probiotec paid out 53% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. 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. Probiotec's cash payout ratio in the last year was 36%, which suggests dividends were well covered by cash generated by the business. It's positive to see that Probiotec's dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.
With a strong net cash balance, Probiotec investors may not have much to worry about in the near term from a dividend perspective.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Probiotec's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.
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. Probiotec has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. This dividend has been unstable, which we define as having been cut one or more times over this time. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was AU$0.028 in 2010, compared to AU$0.035 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 2.4% a year over that time. Probiotec's dividend payments have fluctuated, so it hasn't grown 2.4% every year, but the CAGR is a useful rule of thumb for approximating the historical growth.
Modest growth in the dividend is good to see, but we think this is offset by historical cuts to the payments. It is hard to live on a dividend income if the company's earnings are not consistent.
Dividend Growth Potential
With a relatively unstable dividend, it's even more important to see if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Why take the risk of a dividend getting cut, unless there's a good chance of bigger dividends in future? Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Probiotec has grown its earnings per share at 30% per annum 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 Probiotec's growth will be slower in the future.
Dividend investors should always want to know if a) a company's dividends are affordable, b) if there is a track record of consistent payments, and c) if the dividend is capable of growing. Probiotec's payout ratios are within a normal range for the average corporation, and we like that its cashflow was stronger than reported profits. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. Overall we think Probiotec is an interesting dividend stock, although it could be better.
You can also discover whether shareholders are aligned with insider interests by checking our visualisation of insider shareholdings and trades in Probiotec stock.
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 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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