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Three Things You Should Check Before Buying Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers Incorporated (NYSE:RBA) For Its Dividend

Simply Wall St

Could Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers Incorporated (NYSE:RBA) 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. On the other hand, investors have been known to buy a stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

A slim 2.0% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers could have potential. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 0.8% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers!

NYSE:RBA Historical Dividend Yield, September 30th 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. 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 61% of Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. A payout ratio above 50% generally implies a business is reaching maturity, although it is still possible to reinvest in the business or increase the dividend over time.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers paid out 50% of its cash flow as dividends last year, which is within a reasonable range for the average corporation. 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.

Is Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. A quick check of its financial situation can be done with two ratios: net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and 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. With net debt of 2.02 times its EBITDA, Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers's debt burden is within a normal range for most listed companies.

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 4.63 times its interest expense is starting to become a concern for Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers'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 Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers's dividend payments. The dividend has been stable over the past 10 years, which is great. We think this could suggest some resilience to the business and its dividends. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.36 in 2009, compared to US$0.80 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 8.3% per year over this time.

Dividends have grown at a reasonable rate over this period, and without any major cuts in the payment over time, we think this is an attractive combination.

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. Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers has grown its earnings per share at 6.5% per annum over the past five years. The rate at which earnings have grown is quite decent, and by paying out more than half of its earnings as dividends, the company is striking a reasonable balance between reinvestment and returns to shareholders.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers'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 think Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers is paying out an acceptable percentage of its cashflow and profit. Earnings per share growth has been slow, but we respect a company that maintains a relatively stable dividend. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers 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 8 analysts we track are forecasting for Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding 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.