Some investors rely on dividends for growing their wealth, and if you're one of those dividend sleuths, you might be intrigued to know that The North West Company Inc. (TSE:NWC) is about to go ex-dividend in just 3 days. If you purchase the stock on or after the 30th of March, you won't be eligible to receive this dividend, when it is paid on the 15th of April.
North West's next dividend payment will be CA$0.33 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed CA$1.32 to shareholders. Looking at the last 12 months of distributions, North West has a trailing yield of approximately 7.2% on its current stock price of CA$18.23. Dividends are an important source of income to many shareholders, but the health of the business is crucial to maintaining those dividends. As a result, readers should always check whether North West has been able to grow its dividends, or if the dividend might be cut.
If a company pays out more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. It paid out 78% of its earnings as dividends last year, which is not unreasonable, but limits reinvestment in the business and leaves the dividend vulnerable to a business downturn. We'd be concerned if earnings began to decline. 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 163% of its free cash flow as dividends, which is uncomfortably high. We're curious about why the company paid out more cash than it generated last year, since this can be one of the early signs that a dividend may be unsustainable.
North West 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 North West to repeatedly pay dividends that aren't well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Stocks in companies that generate sustainable earnings growth often make the best dividend prospects, as it is easier to lift the dividend when earnings are rising. If business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. This is why it's a relief to see North West earnings per share are up 5.5% per annum over the last five years. Earnings have been growing at a steady rate, but we're concerned dividend payments consumed most of the company's cash flow over the past year.
The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. North West's dividend payments are effectively flat on where they were ten years ago.
The Bottom Line
Is North West worth buying for its dividend? Earnings per share have grown somewhat, although North West paid out over half its profits and the dividend was not well covered by free cash flow. It's not the most attractive proposition from a dividend perspective, and we'd probably give this one a miss for now.
With that being said, if you're still considering North West as an investment, you'll find it beneficial to know what risks this stock is facing. For example, we've found 3 warning signs for North West that we recommend you consider before investing in the business.
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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