Tan Chong International Limited (HKG:693) stock is about to trade ex-dividend in 4 days time. Investors can purchase shares before the 11th of September in order to be eligible for this dividend, which will be paid on the 25th of September.
Tan Chong International's next dividend payment will be HK$0.02 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed HK$0.12 to shareholders. Looking at the last 12 months of distributions, Tan Chong International has a trailing yield of approximately 5.3% on its current stock price of HK$2.25. Dividends are an important source of income to many shareholders, but the health of the business is crucial to maintaining those dividends. We need to see whether the dividend is covered by earnings and if it's growing.
If a company pays out more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. Tan Chong International paid out 66% of its earnings to investors last year, a normal payout level for most businesses. That said, even highly profitable companies sometimes might not generate enough cash to pay the dividend, which is why we should always check if the dividend is covered by cash flow. Over the past year it paid out 118% of its free cash flow as dividends, which is uncomfortably high. It's hard to consistently pay out more cash than you generate without either borrowing or using company cash, so we'd wonder how the company justifies this payout level.
Tan Chong International does have a large net cash position on the balance sheet, which could fund large dividends for a time, if the company so chose. Still, smart investors know that it is better to assess dividends relative to the cash and profit generated by the business. Paying dividends out of cash on the balance sheet is not long-term sustainable.
Tan Chong International paid out less in dividends than it reported in profits, but unfortunately it didn't generate enough cash to cover the dividend. Cash is king, as they say, and were Tan Chong International to repeatedly pay dividends that aren't well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Businesses with shrinking earnings are tricky from a dividend perspective. If earnings fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. Readers will understand then, why we're concerned to see Tan Chong International's earnings per share have dropped 30% a year over the past five years. Such a sharp decline casts doubt on the future sustainability of the dividend.
Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. Tan Chong International has delivered an average of 15% per year annual increase in its dividend, based on the past 10 years of dividend payments. That's interesting, but the combination of a growing dividend despite declining earnings can typically only be achieved by paying out more of the company's profits. This can be valuable for shareholders, but it can't go on forever.
The Bottom Line
Has Tan Chong International got what it takes to maintain its dividend payments? It's definitely not great to see earnings per share shrinking. The company paid out an acceptable percentage of its income, but an uncomfortably high percentage of its cash flow over the past year. It's not that we think Tan Chong International is a bad company, but these characteristics don't generally lead to outstanding dividend performance.
Keen to explore more data on Tan Chong International's financial performance? Check out our visualisation of its historical revenue and earnings growth.
We wouldn't recommend just buying the first dividend stock you see, though. Here's a list of interesting dividend stocks with a greater than 2% yield and an upcoming dividend.
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