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Shareholders Are Loving Fortune Brands Home & Security, Inc.'s (NYSE:FBHS) 1.7% Yield

Simply Wall St

Dividend paying stocks like Fortune Brands Home & Security, Inc. (NYSE:FBHS) 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 1.7% yield and a six-year payment history, investors probably think Fortune Brands Home & Security looks like a reliable dividend stock. A low yield is generally a turn-off, but if the prospects for earnings growth were strong, investors might be pleasantly surprised by the long-term results. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 2.0% of market capitalisation this year. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Fortune Brands Home & Security for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

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NYSE:FBHS Historical Dividend Yield, August 19th 2019

Payout ratios

Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Fortune Brands Home & Security paid out 29% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. A medium payout ratio strikes a good balance between paying dividends, and keeping enough back to invest in the business. Plus, there is room to increase the payout ratio over time.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Of the free cash flow it generated last year, Fortune Brands Home & Security paid out 27% as dividends, suggesting the dividend is affordable. 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 Fortune Brands Home & Security's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Fortune Brands Home & Security 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). Fortune Brands Home & Security has net debt of 2.43 times its EBITDA. Using debt can accelerate business growth, but also increases the risks.

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 8.01 times its interest expense appears reasonable for Fortune Brands Home & Security, although we're conscious that even high interest cover doesn't make a company bulletproof.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Fortune Brands Home & Security's financial position here.

Dividend Volatility

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. Fortune Brands Home & Security 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 US$0.40 in 2013, compared to US$0.88 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 14% per year over this time.

We're not overly excited about the relatively short history of dividend payments, however the dividend is growing at a nice rate and we might take a closer look.

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 Fortune Brands Home & Security has been growing its earnings per share at 18% a year over the past 5 years. Earnings per share have been growing at a good rate, and the company is paying less than half its earnings as dividends. We generally think this is an attractive combination, as it permits further reinvestment in the business.

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. First, we like that the company's dividend payments appear well covered, although the retained capital also needs to be effectively reinvested. Second, the company has not been able to generate earnings growth, and its history of dividend payments too short for us to thoroughly evaluate the dividend's consistency across an economic cycle. All things considered, Fortune Brands Home & Security looks like a strong prospect. At the right valuation, it could be something special.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 15 analysts we track are forecasting for Fortune Brands Home & Security for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding 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.