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Is Townsquare Media, Inc. (NYSE:TSQ) A Great Dividend Stock?

Simply Wall St

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Today we'll take a closer look at Townsquare Media, Inc. (NYSE:TSQ) 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. 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.

Some readers mightn't know much about Townsquare Media's 5.5% dividend, as it has only been paying distributions for a year or so. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Townsquare Media for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NYSE:TSQ Historical Dividend Yield, July 19th 2019

Payout ratios

Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned, 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. While Townsquare Media pays a dividend, it reported a loss over the last year. When a company is loss-making, we next need to check to see if its cash flows can support the dividend.

Of the free cash flow it generated last year, Townsquare Media paid out 34% as dividends, suggesting the dividend is affordable.

Is Townsquare Media's Balance Sheet Risky?

Given Townsquare Media is paying a dividend but reported a loss over the past year, we need to check its balance sheet for signs of financial distress. 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 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 5.17 times its EBITDA, Townsquare Media could be described as a highly leveraged company. While some companies can handle this level of leverage, we'd be concerned about the dividend sustainability if there was any risk of an earnings downturn.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. Interest cover of 2.17 times its interest expense is starting to become a concern for Townsquare Media, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well. High debt and weak interest cover are not a great combo, and we would be cautious of relying on this company's dividend while these metrics persist.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Townsquare Media'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. This company has been paying a dividend for less than 2 years, which we think is too soon to consider it a reliable dividend stock. Its most recent annual dividend was US$0.30 per share.

We like that the dividend hasn't been shrinking. However we're conscious that the company hasn't got an overly long track record of dividend payments yet, which makes us wary of relying on its dividend income.

Dividend Growth Potential

Examining whether the dividend is affordable and stable is important. However, it's also important to assess if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Growing EPS can help maintain or increase the purchasing power of the dividend over the long run. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Townsquare Media has grown its earnings per share at 32% per annum over the past five years.

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. We're a bit uncomfortable with the company paying a dividend while being loss-making, although at least the dividend was covered by free cash flow. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the company has not been paying dividends as long as we'd like. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Townsquare Media 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 3 analysts we track are forecasting for Townsquare Media 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.