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Is Sify Technologies Limited (NASDAQ:SIFY) A Smart Choice For Dividend Investors?

Simply Wall St

Is Sify Technologies Limited (NASDAQ:SIFY) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. 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.

With a 1.3% yield and a five-year payment history, investors probably think Sify Technologies looks like a reliable dividend stock. While the yield may not look too great, the relatively long payment history is interesting. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NasdaqCM:SIFY Historical Dividend Yield, August 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. Looking at the data, we can see that 17% of Sify Technologies's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. We'd say its dividends are thoroughly covered by earnings.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Last year, Sify Technologies paid a dividend while reporting negative free cash flow. While there may be an explanation, we think this behaviour is generally not sustainable.

Is Sify Technologies's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Sify Technologies 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). Sify Technologies has net debt of 2.03 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. Interest cover of 3.50 times its interest expense is starting to become a concern for Sify Technologies, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Sify Technologies's financial position here.

Dividend Volatility

One of the major risks of relying on dividend income, is the potential for a company to struggle financially and cut its dividend. Not only is your income cut, but the value of your investment declines as well - nasty. Looking at the data, we can see that Sify Technologies has been paying a dividend for the past five years. During the past five-year period, the first annual payment was ₹1.00 in 2014, compared to ₹1.20 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 3.7% per year over this time.

We like that the dividend hasn't been shrinking. However we're conscious that the company hasn't got an overly long track record of dividend payments yet, which makes us wary of relying on its dividend income.

Dividend Growth Potential

Examining whether the dividend is affordable and stable is important. However, it's also important to assess if 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. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Sify Technologies has grown its earnings per share at 25% per annum 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.

We'd also point out that Sify Technologies 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 Sify Technologies's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. Sify Technologies has a low payout ratio, which we like, although it paid out virtually all of its generated cash. 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. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Sify Technologies 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.

See if management have their own wealth at stake, by checking insider shareholdings in Sify Technologies stock.

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.