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Would Swedish Match AB (publ) (STO:SWMA) Be Valuable To Income Investors?

Simply Wall St

Could Swedish Match AB (publ) (STO:SWMA) 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. If you are hoping to live on your dividends, it's important to be more stringent with your investments than the average punter. Regular readers know we like to apply the same approach to each dividend stock, and we hope you'll find our analysis useful.

With a 2.3% yield and a nine-year payment history, investors probably think Swedish Match looks like a reliable dividend stock. A 2.3% yield is not inspiring, but the longer payment history has some appeal. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 3.6% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Swedish Match for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Swedish Match!

OM:SWMA Historical Dividend Yield, May 23rd 2019

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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. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Looking at the data, we can see that 49% of Swedish Match's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. This is a middling range that strikes a nice balance between paying dividends to shareholders, and retaining enough earnings to invest in future growth. Plus, there is room to increase the payout ratio over time.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. The company paid out 53% of its free cash flow, which is not bad per se, but does start to limit the amount of cash Swedish Match has available to meet other needs. It's positive to see that Swedish Match'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.

We update our data on Swedish Match 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. The first recorded dividend for Swedish Match, in the last decade, was nine years ago. 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 nine-year period, the first annual payment was kr4.75 in 2010, compared to kr10.50 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 9.2% a year over that time.

The dividend has been growing at a reasonable rate, which we like. We're conscious though that one of the best ways to detect a multi-decade consistent dividend payer, is to watch a company pay dividends for 20 years - a distinction Swedish Match has not achieved yet.

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. Earnings have grown at around 9.5% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! It's good to see decent earnings growth and a low payout ratio. Companies with these characteristics often display the fastest dividend growth over the long term - assuming earnings can be maintained, of course.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Swedish Match's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. Above all, we're glad to see that Swedish Match pays out a low fraction of its earnings and, while it paid a higher percentage of cashflow, this also was within a normal range. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the company has not been paying dividends as long as we'd like. Overall we think Swedish Match is an interesting dividend stock, although it could be better.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 10 analysts we track are forecasting for Swedish Match for free with public 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.