It looks like NCC Group plc (LON:NCC) is about to go ex-dividend in the next 4 days. If you purchase the stock on or after the 5th of September, you won't be eligible to receive this dividend, when it is paid on the 4th of October.
NCC Group's next dividend payment will be UK£0.032 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed UK£0.046 to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, NCC Group has a trailing yield of 2.6% on the current stock price of £1.766. If you buy this business for its dividend, you should have an idea of whether NCC Group's dividend is reliable and sustainable. We need to see whether the dividend is covered by earnings and if it's growing.
Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned in profit, then the dividend could be unsustainable. Last year NCC Group paid out 96% of its profits as dividends to shareholders, suggesting the dividend is not well covered by earnings. Yet cash flows are even more important than profits for assessing a dividend, so we need to see if the company generated enough cash to pay its distribution. Fortunately, it paid out only 42% of its free cash flow in the past year.
It's good to see that while NCC Group's dividends were not well covered by profits, at least they are affordable from a cash perspective. Still, if this were to happen repeatedly, we'd be concerned about whether the dividend is sustainable in a downturn.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Companies with falling earnings are riskier for dividend shareholders. If earnings fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. NCC Group's earnings per share have fallen at approximately 11% a year over the previous 5 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. NCC Group has delivered an average of 14% per year annual increase in its dividend, based on the past 10 years of dividend payments. That's intriguing, but the combination of growing dividends despite declining earnings can typically only be achieved by paying out a larger percentage of profits. NCC Group is already paying out a high percentage of its income, so without earnings growth, we're doubtful of whether this dividend will grow much in the future.
The Bottom Line
Is NCC Group worth buying for its dividend? It's never great to see earnings per share declining, especially when a company is paying out 96% of its profit as dividends, which we feel is uncomfortably high. However, the cash payout ratio was much lower - good news from a dividend perspective - which makes us wonder why there is such a mis-match between income and cashflow. Bottom line: NCC Group has some unfortunate characteristics that we think could lead to sub-optimal outcomes for dividend investors.
Ever wonder what the future holds for NCC Group? See what the five analysts we track are forecasting, with this visualisation of its historical and future estimated earnings and cash flow
If you're in the market for dividend stocks, we recommend checking our list of top dividend stocks with a greater than 2% yield and an upcoming dividend.
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