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Why Cathay General Bancorp (NASDAQ:CATY) Should Be In Your Dividend Portfolio

Simply Wall St

Today we'll take a closer look at Cathay General Bancorp (NASDAQ:CATY) 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. Unfortunately, it's common for investors to be enticed in by the seemingly attractive yield, and lose money when the company has to cut its dividend payments.

A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for Cathay General Bancorp. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. The company also returned around 2.6% of its market capitalisation to shareholders in the form of stock buybacks over the past year. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we'll go through this below.

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NasdaqGS:CATY Historical Dividend Yield, October 26th 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. 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, Cathay General Bancorp paid out 9.0% of its profit as dividends. We like this low payout ratio, because it implies the dividend is well covered and leaves ample opportunity for reinvestment.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Cathay General Bancorp's financial position here.

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. Cathay General Bancorp has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. Its dividend payments have fallen by 20% or more on at least one occasion over the past ten years. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.42 in 2009, compared to US$1.24 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 11% a year over that 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.

It's not great to see that the payment has been cut in the past. We're generally more wary of companies that have cut their dividend before, as they tend to perform worse in an economic downturn.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, it's even more important to see if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Why take the risk of a dividend getting cut, unless there's a good chance of bigger dividends in future? It's good to see Cathay General Bancorp has been growing its earnings per share at 19% a year over the past five years. Rapid earnings growth and a low payout ratio suggests this company has been effectively reinvesting in its business. Should that continue, this company could have a bright future.

Conclusion

Dividend investors should always want to know if a) a company's dividends are affordable, b) if there is a track record of consistent payments, and c) if the dividend is capable of growing. Firstly, we like that Cathay General Bancorp has a low and conservative payout ratio. We were also glad to see it growing earnings, but it was concerning to see the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. Cathay General Bancorp has a number of positive attributes, but falls short of our ideal dividend company. It may be worth a look at the right price, though.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 7 analysts we track are forecasting for Cathay General Bancorp for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

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.