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Is Savaria Corporation (TSE:SIS) An Attractive Dividend Stock?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll take a closer look at Savaria Corporation (TSE:SIS) from a dividend investor's perspective. Owning a strong business and reinvesting the dividends is widely seen as an attractive way of growing your wealth. On the other hand, investors have been known to buy a stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

In this case, Savaria likely looks attractive to investors, given its 3.8% dividend yield and a payment history of over ten years. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Savaria for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Savaria!

TSX:SIS Historical Dividend Yield, October 11th 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, Savaria paid out 108% of its profit as dividends. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, from the perspective of an investor who hopes to own the company for many years, a payout ratio of above 100% is definitely a concern.

We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. With a cash payout ratio of 168%, Savaria's dividend payments are poorly covered by cash flow. Paying out more than 100% of your free cash flow in dividends is generally not a long-term, sustainable state of affairs, so we think shareholders should watch this metric closely. As Savaria's dividend was not well covered by either earnings or cash flow, we would be concerned that this dividend could be at risk over the long term.

Is Savaria's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Savaria's dividend was not well covered by earnings, we need to check its balance sheet for signs of financial distress. 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 is a measure of a company's total debt. Net interest cover measures the ability to meet interest payments. Essentially we check that a) the company does not have too much debt, and b) that it can afford to pay the interest. Savaria has net debt of 0.81 times its EBITDA, which we think is not too troublesome.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. Savaria has EBIT of 6.92 times its interest expense, which we think is adequate.

We update our data on Savaria 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. Savaria 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 fallen by at least 20% one or more times over this time. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was CA$0.021 in 2009, compared to CA$0.46 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 36% per year over this time. The growth in dividends has not been linear, but the CAGR is a decent approximation of the rate of change over this time frame.

So, its dividends have grown at a rapid rate over this time, but payments have been cut in the past. The stock may still be worth considering as part of a diversified dividend portfolio.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, it's even more important to evaluate if earnings per share (EPS) are growing - it's not worth taking the risk on a dividend getting cut, unless you might be rewarded with larger dividends in future. It's good to see Savaria has been growing its earnings per share at 10% a year over the past five years. While EPS are growing rapidly, Savaria paid out a very high 108% of its income as dividends. If earnings continue to grow, this dividend may be sustainable, but we think a payout this high definitely bears watching.

We'd also point out that Savaria issued a meaningful number of new shares in the past year. Trying to grow the dividend when issuing new shares reminds us of the ancient Greek tale of Sisyphus - perpetually pushing a boulder uphill. Companies that consistently issue new shares are often suboptimal from a dividend perspective.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Savaria's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. It's a concern to see that the company paid out such a high percentage of its earnings and cashflow as dividends. We were also glad to see it growing earnings, but it was concerning to see the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. Overall, Savaria falls short in several key areas here. Unless the investor has strong grounds for an alternative conclusion, we find it hard to get interested in a dividend stock with these characteristics.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 7 Savaria analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on 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.