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Shareholders Are Loving Martin Marietta Materials, Inc.'s (NYSE:MLM) 0.9% Yield

Simply Wall St

Could Martin Marietta Materials, Inc. (NYSE:MLM) 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. 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.

A slim 0.9% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, Martin Marietta Materials could have potential. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 0.7% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Martin Marietta Materials for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NYSE:MLM Historical Dividend Yield, November 12th 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. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. In the last year, Martin Marietta Materials paid out 22% of its profit as dividends. With a low payout ratio, it looks like the dividend is comprehensively covered by earnings.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Martin Marietta Materials's cash payout ratio in the last year was 25%, which suggests dividends were well covered by cash generated by the business. It's positive to see that Martin Marietta Materials'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 Martin Marietta Materials's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Martin Marietta Materials 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 2.37 times its EBITDA, Martin Marietta Materials's debt burden is within a normal range for most listed companies.

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 6.76 times its interest expense appears reasonable for Martin Marietta Materials, although we're conscious that even high interest cover doesn't make a company bulletproof.

We update our data on Martin Marietta Materials 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. Martin Marietta Materials has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of 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 US$1.60 in 2009, compared to US$2.20 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 3.2% a year over that time.

While the consistency in the dividend payments is impressive, we think the relatively slow rate of growth is unappealing.

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. It's good to see Martin Marietta Materials has been growing its earnings per share at 28% a year over the past five 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

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Martin Marietta Materials's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. First, we like that the company's dividend payments appear well covered, although the retained capital also needs to be effectively reinvested. Next, growing earnings per share and steady dividend payments is a great combination. Martin Marietta Materials has met all of our criteria, including having strong cash flow that covers the dividend. We definitely think it would be worthwhile looking closer.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 14 Martin Marietta Materials 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.