Dividend paying stocks like Triton International Limited (NYSE:TRTN) tend to be popular with investors, and for good reason - some research suggests a significant amount of all stock market returns come from reinvested dividends. 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.
In this case, Triton International pays a decent-sized 6.4% dividend yield, and has been distributing cash to shareholders for the past three years. A high yield probably looks enticing, but investors are likely wondering about the short payment history. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 5.7% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Triton International for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.
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. As a result, we should always investigate whether a company can afford its dividend, measured as a percentage of a company's net income after tax. In the last year, Triton International paid out 46% of its profit as dividends. 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.
We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Last year, Triton International paid a dividend while reporting negative free cash flow. While there may be an explanation, we think this behaviour is generally not sustainable.
Is Triton International's Balance Sheet Risky?
As Triton International 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 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. Triton International has net debt of 5.38 times its EBITDA, which implies meaningful risk if interest rates rise of earnings decline.
We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company's net interest expense. With EBIT of 2.25 times its interest expense, Triton International's interest cover is starting to look a bit thin. Low interest cover and high debt can create problems right when the investor least needs them, and we're reluctant to rely on the dividend of companies with these traits.
We update our data on Triton International every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.
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. The dividend has not fluctuated much, but with a relatively short payment history, we can't be sure this is sustainable across a full market cycle. During the past three-year period, the first annual payment was US$1.80 in 2016, compared to US$2.08 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 4.9% a year over that time.
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. 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 3.2% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! Triton International is paying out less than half of its earnings, which we like. However, earnings per share are unfortunately not growing much. Might this suggest that the company should pay a higher dividend instead?
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. Triton International has a low payout ratio, which we like, although it paid out virtually all of its generated cash. Unfortunately, earnings growth has also been mediocre, and we think it has not been paying dividends long enough to demonstrate resilience across economic cycles. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than Triton International out there.
Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 4 Triton International analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.