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Should SAF-Holland S.A. (ETR:SFQ) Be Part Of Your Dividend Portfolio?

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Simply Wall St
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Dividend paying stocks like SAF-Holland S.A. (ETR:SFQ) 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. 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.

With a goodly-sized dividend yield despite a relatively short payment history, investors might be wondering if SAF-Holland is a new dividend aristocrat in the making. We'd agree the yield does look enticing. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on SAF-Holland!

XTRA:SFQ Historical Dividend Yield, December 23rd 2019
XTRA:SFQ Historical Dividend Yield, December 23rd 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. 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. In the last year, SAF-Holland paid out 76% of its profit as dividends. It's paying out most of its earnings, which limits the amount that can be reinvested in the business. This may indicate limited need for further capital within the business, or highlight a commitment to paying a dividend.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. SAF-Holland paid out a conservative 31% of its free cash flow as dividends last year. It's positive to see that SAF-Holland'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.

Is SAF-Holland's Balance Sheet Risky?

As SAF-Holland has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. 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 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 2.20 times its EBITDA, SAF-Holland 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. SAF-Holland has EBIT of 7.45 times its interest expense, which we think is adequate.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of SAF-Holland'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. SAF-Holland has been paying a dividend for the past six years. The dividend has been quite stable over the past six years, which is great to see - although we usually like to see the dividend maintained for a decade before giving it full marks, though. During the past six-year period, the first annual payment was €0.27 in 2013, compared to €0.45 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 8.9% a year over that time.

The dividend has been growing at a reasonable rate, which we like. We're conscious though that one of the best ways to detect a multi-decade consistent dividend-payer, is to watch a company pay dividends for 20 years - a distinction SAF-Holland has not achieved yet.

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. Earnings have grown at around 2.0% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! SAF-Holland's earnings per share have barely grown, which is not ideal - perhaps this is why the company pays out the majority of its earnings to shareholders. When the rate of return on reinvestment opportunities falls below a certain minimum level, companies often elect to pay a larger dividend instead. This is why many mature companies often have larger dividend yields.

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. SAF-Holland's payout ratios are within a normal range for the average corporation, and we like that its cashflow was stronger than reported profits. Second, earnings growth has been ordinary, and its history of dividend payments is shorter than we'd like. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than SAF-Holland out there.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 11 analysts we track are forecasting for SAF-Holland 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%.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.