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Is Spectra Systems Corporation (LON:SPSC) An Attractive Dividend Stock?

Simply Wall St

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Today we'll take a closer look at Spectra Systems Corporation (LON:SPSC) from a dividend investor's perspective. Owning a strong business and reinvesting the dividends is widely seen as an attractive way of growing your wealth. 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.

Spectra Systems pays a 4.3% dividend yield, and has been paying dividends for the past two years. A 4.3% yield does look good. Could the short payment history hint at future dividend growth? When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Spectra Systems!

AIM:SPSC Historical Dividend Yield, July 15th 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. 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 78% of Spectra Systems'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.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. The company paid out 65% of its free cash flow, which is not bad per se, but does start to limit the amount of cash Spectra Systems has available to meet other needs. 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.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Spectra Systems'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. The company has been paying a stable dividend for a few years now, but we'd like to see more evidence of consistency over a longer period. During the past two-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.05 in 2017, compared to US$0.07 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 18% per year over this time.

The dividend has been growing pretty quickly, which could be enough to get us interested even though the dividend history is relatively short. Further research may be warranted.

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 Spectra Systems has been growing its earnings per share at 69% a year over the past 5 years. A majority of profits are being paid out as dividends, which raises the question of what happens to the current dividend if earnings decline. However, the rapid growth in earnings may indicate that is less of a risk.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Spectra Systems's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. Spectra Systems'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 Spectra Systems 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.

You can also discover whether shareholders are aligned with insider interests by checking our visualisation of insider shareholdings and trades in Spectra Systems stock.

We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 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.