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Three Things You Should Check Before Buying Wheels India Limited (NSE:WHEELS) For Its Dividend

Simply Wall St

Today we'll take a closer look at Wheels India Limited (NSE:WHEELS) 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. Yet sometimes, investors buy a popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

A slim 1.3% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, Wheels India could have potential. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Wheels India for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Wheels India!

NSEI:WHEELS Historical Dividend Yield, September 9th 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. In the last year, Wheels India paid out 28% 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.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Last year, Wheels India paid a dividend while reporting negative free cash flow. While there may be an explanation, we think this behaviour is generally not sustainable.

Is Wheels India's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Wheels India 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 measures total debt load relative to company earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the ability to pay interest on the debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). With net debt of 2.03 times its EBITDA, Wheels India's debt burden is within a normal range for most listed companies.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. With EBIT of 2.47 times its interest expense, Wheels India's interest cover is starting to look a bit thin.

We update our data on Wheels India every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, 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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Wheels India's dividend payments. This dividend has been unstable, which we define as having fallen by at least 20% one or more times over this time. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was ₹2.75 in 2009, compared to ₹8.00 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 11% per year over this time. The dividends haven't grown at precisely 11% every year, but this is a useful way to average out the historical rate of growth.

Wheels India has grown distributions at a rapid rate despite cutting the dividend at least once in the past. Companies that cut once often cut again, but it might be worth considering if the business has turned a corner.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, it's even more important to evaluate if earnings per share (EPS) are growing - it's not worth taking the risk on a dividend getting cut, unless you might be rewarded with larger dividends in future. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Wheels India has grown its earnings per share at 16% per annum over the past five years. Earnings per share have been growing at a good rate, and the company is paying less than half its earnings as dividends. We generally think this is an attractive combination, as it permits further reinvestment in the business.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Wheels India's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. Firstly, the company has a conservative payout ratio, although we'd note that its cashflow in the past year was substantially lower than its reported profit. Unfortunately, the company has not been able to generate earnings per share growth, and cut its dividend at least once in the past. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Wheels India 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.

Now, if you want to look closer, it would be worth checking out our free research on Wheels India management tenure, salary, and performance.

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.