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Something To Consider Before Buying SBM Offshore N.V. (AMS:SBMO) For The 4.2% Dividend

Simply Wall St

Is SBM Offshore N.V. (AMS:SBMO) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. Unfortunately, it's common for investors to be enticed in by the seemingly attractive yield, and lose money when the company has to cut its dividend payments.

A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for SBM Offshore. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 5.5% of market capitalisation this year. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we'll go through this below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

ENXTAM:SBMO Historical Dividend Yield, February 20th 2020

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, SBM Offshore paid out 41% of its profit as dividends. This is a medium payout level that leaves enough capital in the business to fund opportunities that might arise, while also rewarding shareholders. 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. Unfortunately, while SBM Offshore pays a dividend, it also reported negative free cash flow last year. While there may be a good reason for this, it's not ideal from a dividend perspective.

Is SBM Offshore's Balance Sheet Risky?

As SBM Offshore 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 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. SBM Offshore is carrying net debt of 4.46 times its EBITDA, which is getting towards the upper limit of our comfort range on a dividend stock that the investor hopes will endure a wide range of economic circumstances.

We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company's net interest expense. Interest cover of 2.92 times its interest expense is starting to become a concern for SBM Offshore, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well.

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

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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of SBM Offshore's dividend payments. The dividend has been cut on at least one occasion historically. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.88 in 2010, compared to US$0.76 last year. This works out to be a decline of approximately 1.4% per year over that time. SBM Offshore's dividend hasn't shrunk linearly at 1.4% per annum, but the CAGR is a useful estimate of the historical rate of change.

When a company's per-share dividend falls we question if this reflects poorly on either external business conditions, or the company's capital allocation decisions. Either way, we find it hard to get excited about a company with a declining dividend.

Dividend Growth Potential

Given that the dividend has been cut in the past, we need to check if earnings are growing and if that might lead to stronger dividends in the future. Over the past five years, it looks as though SBM Offshore's EPS have declined at around 7.7% a year. If earnings continue to decline, the dividend may come under pressure. Every investor should make an assessment of whether the company is taking steps to stabilise the situation.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that SBM Offshore'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 SBM Offshore's low dividend payout ratio, although we're a bit concerned that it paid out a substantially higher percentage of its free cash flow. Second, earnings per share have been in decline, and its dividend has been cut at least once in the past. In summary, SBM Offshore has a number of shortcomings that we'd find it hard to get past. Things could change, but we think there are a number of better ideas out there.

Given that earnings are not growing, the dividend does not look nearly so attractive. Businesses can change though, and we think it would make sense to see what analysts are forecasting 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.