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Three Things You Should Check Before Buying Phillips 66 (NYSE:PSX) For Its Dividend

Simply Wall St

Is Phillips 66 (NYSE:PSX) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. If you are hoping to live on the income from dividends, it's important to be a lot more stringent with your investments than the average punter.

With a seven-year payment history and a 3.7% yield, many investors probably find Phillips 66 intriguing. It sure looks interesting on these metrics - but there's always more to the story . The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 3.8% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Phillips 66 for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Phillips 66!

NYSE:PSX Historical Dividend Yield, September 1st 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. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Phillips 66 paid out 28% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. A medium payout ratio strikes a good balance between paying dividends, and keeping enough back to invest in the business. 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. Phillips 66 paid out 56% of its free cash flow last year, which is acceptable, but is starting to limit the amount of earnings that can be reinvested into the business. 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.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Phillips 66'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 Phillips 66 has been paying a dividend for the past seven years. The dividend has been quite stable over the past seven years, which is great to see - although we usually like to see the dividend maintained for a decade before giving it full marks, though. During the past seven-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.80 in 2012, compared to US$3.60 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 24% a year over that 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

Dividend payments have been consistent over the past few years, but we should always check if earnings per share (EPS) are growing, as this will help maintain the purchasing power of the dividend. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Phillips 66 has grown its earnings per share at 14% per annum over the past five years. A company paying out less than a quarter of its earnings as dividends, and growing earnings at more than 10% per annum, looks to be right in the cusp of its growth phase. At the right price, we might be interested.

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. Above all, we're glad to see that Phillips 66 pays out a low fraction of its earnings and, while it paid a higher percentage of cashflow, this also was within a normal range. Unfortunately, there hasn't been any earnings growth, and the company's dividend history has been too short for us to evaluate the consistency of the dividend. Overall we think Phillips 66 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 13 analysts we track are forecasting for Phillips 66 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%.

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.