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Is Rush Enterprises, Inc. (NASDAQ:RUSH.B) An Attractive Dividend Stock?

Simply Wall St

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Could Rush Enterprises, Inc. (NASDAQ:RUSH.B) be an attractive dividend share to own for the long haul? Investors are often drawn to strong companies with the idea of reinvesting the dividends. If you are hoping to live on your dividends, it's important to be more stringent with your investments than the average punter. Regular readers know we like to apply the same approach to each dividend stock, and we hope you'll find our analysis useful.

Some readers mightn't know much about Rush Enterprises's 1.3% dividend, as it has only been paying distributions for a year or so. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 7.9% of market capitalisation this year. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Rush Enterprises for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Rush Enterprises!

NasdaqGS:RUSH.B Historical Dividend Yield, June 11th 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. In the last year, Rush Enterprises paid out 8.9% of its profit as dividends. We'd say its dividends are thoroughly covered by earnings.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Last year, Rush Enterprises paid a dividend while reporting negative free cash flow. While there may be an explanation, we think this behaviour is generally not sustainable. It's encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don't drop precipitously.

Is Rush Enterprises's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Rush Enterprises has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. A quick way to check a company's financial situation uses these two ratios: net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and 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). Rush Enterprises is carrying net debt of 4.52 times its EBITDA, which is getting towards the upper limit of our comfort range on a dividend stock that the investor hopes will endure a wide range of economic circumstances.

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 9.53 times its interest expense appears reasonable for Rush Enterprises, although we're conscious that even high interest cover doesn't make a company bulletproof.

We update our data on Rush Enterprises 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. With a payment history of less than 2 years, we think it's a bit too soon to think about living on the income from its dividend. Its most recent annual dividend was US$0.48 per share, effectively flat on its first payment one years ago.

Modest dividend growth is good to see, especially with the payments being relatively stable. However, the payment history is relatively short and we wouldn't want to rely on this dividend too much.

Dividend Growth Potential

The other half of the dividend investing equation is evaluating whether earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Over the long term, dividends need to grow at or above the rate of inflation, in order to maintain the recipient's purchasing power. It's good to see Rush Enterprises has been growing its earnings per share at 26% a year over the past 5 years. The company is only paying out a fraction of its earnings as dividends, and in the past been able to use the retained earnings to grow its profits rapidly - an ideal combination.

Conclusion

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. Rush Enterprises has a low payout ratio, which we like, although it paid out virtually all of its generated cash. 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 Rush Enterprises 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.

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 Rush Enterprises 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.