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Would Silicon Motion Technology Corporation (NASDAQ:SIMO) Be Valuable To Income Investors?

Simply Wall St

Could Silicon Motion Technology Corporation (NASDAQ:SIMO) 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. Yet sometimes, investors buy a stock for its dividend and lose money because the share price falls by more than they earned in dividend payments.

With a 2.7% yield and a seven-year payment history, investors probably think Silicon Motion Technology 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 3.1% of market capitalisation this year. Remember though, due to the recent spike in its share price, Silicon Motion Technology's yield will look lower, even though the market may now be factoring in an improvement in its long-term prospects. Before you buy any stock for its dividend however, you should always remember Warren Buffett's two rules: 1) Don't lose money, and 2) Remember rule #1. We'll run through some checks below to help with this.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NasdaqGS:SIMO Historical Dividend Yield, January 15th 2020

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. 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 79% of Silicon Motion Technology's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. 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.

We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Silicon Motion Technology paid out 63% of its cash flow as dividends last year, which is within a reasonable range for the average corporation. It's positive to see that Silicon Motion Technology'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.

With a strong net cash balance, Silicon Motion Technology investors may not have much to worry about in the near term from a dividend perspective.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Silicon Motion Technology's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

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 Silicon Motion Technology has been paying a dividend for the past seven years. The company has been paying a stable dividend for a while now, which is great. However we'd prefer to see consistency for a few more years before giving it our full seal of approval. During the past seven-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.60 in 2013, compared to US$1.40 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 13% per year over this time.

Silicon Motion Technology has been growing its dividend quite rapidly, which is exciting. However, the short payment history makes us question whether this performance will persist across a full market cycle.

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 Silicon Motion Technology has been growing its earnings per share at 13% a year over the past five years. Earnings per share are growing nicely, but the company is paying out most of its earnings as dividends. This might be sustainable, but we wonder why Silicon Motion Technology is not retaining those earnings to reinvest in growth.

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. Silicon Motion Technology's is paying out more than half its income as dividends, but at least the dividend is covered by both reported earnings and cashflow. We were also glad to see it growing earnings, although its dividend history is not as long as we'd like. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Silicon Motion Technology 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.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 12 analysts we track are forecasting for Silicon Motion Technology 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.