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Why First Financial Bancorp. (NASDAQ:FFBC) Is A Dividend Rockstar

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Is First Financial Bancorp. (NASDAQ:FFBC) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. 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.

With First Financial Bancorp yielding 6.7% and having paid a dividend for over 10 years, many investors likely find the company quite interesting. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. During the year, the company also conducted a buyback equivalent to around 4.9% of its market capitalisation. Remember though, given the recent drop in its share price, First Financial Bancorp's yield will look higher, even though the market may now be expecting a decline in its long-term prospects. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying First Financial Bancorp for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NasdaqGS:FFBC Historical Dividend Yield April 26th 2020
NasdaqGS:FFBC Historical Dividend Yield April 26th 2020

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. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. In the last year, First Financial Bancorp paid out 49% 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. One of the risks is that management reinvests the retained capital poorly instead of paying a higher dividend.

We update our data on First Financial Bancorp every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

Dividend Volatility

Before buying a stock for its income, we want to see if the dividends have been stable in the past, and if the company has a track record of maintaining its dividend. First Financial 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. The dividend has been cut on at least one occasion historically. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.40 in 2010, compared to US$0.92 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 8.7% per year over this time. The growth in dividends has not been linear, but the CAGR is a decent approximation of the rate of change over this time frame.

Dividends have grown at a reasonable rate, but with at least one substantial cut in the payments, we're not certain this dividend stock would be ideal for someone intending to live on the income.

Dividend Growth Potential

Given that the dividend has been cut in the past, we need to check if earnings are growing and if that might lead to stronger dividends in the future. It's good to see First Financial Bancorp has been growing its earnings per share at 11% a year 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

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. Firstly, we like that First Financial Bancorp has a low and conservative payout ratio. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. First Financial 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 possessing a stable dividend policy will likely enjoy greater investor interest than those suffering from a more inconsistent approach. At the same time, there are other factors our readers should be conscious of before pouring capital into a stock. Just as an example, we've come accross 3 warning signs for First Financial Bancorp you should be aware of, and 1 of them is a bit unpleasant.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 3%.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.