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Read This Before Buying Reliance Industries Limited (NSE:RELIANCE) For Its Dividend

Simply Wall St

Dividend paying stocks like Reliance Industries Limited (NSE:RELIANCE) 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 slim 0.5% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, Reliance Industries could have potential. Before you buy any stock for its dividend however, you should always remember Warren Buffett's two rules: 1) Don't lose money, and 2) Remember rule #1. We'll run through some checks below to help with this.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Reliance Industries!

NSEI:RELIANCE Historical Dividend Yield, August 20th 2019

Payout ratios

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 9.6% of Reliance Industries's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. We'd say its dividends are thoroughly covered by earnings.

We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Last year, Reliance Industries paid a dividend while reporting negative free cash flow. While there may be an explanation, we think this behaviour is generally not sustainable.

Is Reliance Industries's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Reliance Industries 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). With net debt of 2.41 times its EBITDA, Reliance Industries 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. Net interest cover of 5.79 times its interest expense appears reasonable for Reliance Industries, although we're conscious that even high interest cover doesn't make a company bulletproof.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Reliance Industries's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Reliance Industries's dividend 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 ₹3.25 in 2009, compared to ₹6.50 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 7.2% a year over that time.

Dividends have grown at a reasonable rate over this period, and without any major cuts in the payment over time, we think this is an attractive combination.

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. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Reliance Industries has grown its earnings per share at 12% per annum over the past five years. Rapid earnings growth and a low payout ratio suggests this company has been effectively reinvesting in its business. Should that continue, this company could have a bright future.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Reliance Industries's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. Firstly, the company has a conservative payout ratio, although we'd note that its cashflow in the past year was substantially lower than its reported profit. Second, it has a limited history of earnings per share growth, but at least the dividends have been relatively stable. Overall we think Reliance Industries is an interesting dividend stock, although it could be better.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 25 Reliance Industries 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%.

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.