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Is Barrett Business Services, Inc. (NASDAQ:BBSI) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. 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 1.2% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests Barrett Business Services has some staying power. Before you buy any stock for its dividend however, you should always remember Warren Buffett's two rules: 1) Don't lose money, and 2) Remember rule #1. We'll run through some checks below to help with this.
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. Barrett Business Services paid out 16% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. We'd say its dividends are thoroughly covered by earnings.
We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Barrett Business Services's cash payout ratio last year was 7.6%. Cash flows are typically lumpy, but this looks like an appropriately conservative payout. It's encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don't drop precipitously.
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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Barrett Business Services's dividend payments. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.32 in 2009, compared to US$1.00 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 12% per year over this time.
Dividends have been growing pretty quickly, and even more impressively, they haven't experienced any notable falls during this period.
Dividend Growth Potential
Examining whether the dividend is affordable and stable is important. However, it's also important to assess if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Growing EPS can help maintain or increase the purchasing power of the dividend over the long run. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Barrett Business Services has grown its earnings per share at 23% per annum over the past five years. The company is only paying out a fraction of its earnings as dividends, and in the past been able to use the retained earnings to grow its profits rapidly - an ideal combination.
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 Barrett Business Services has low and conservative payout ratios. We like that it has been delivering solid improvement in its earnings per share, and relatively consistent dividend payments. Overall, we think there are a lot of positives to Barrett Business Services from a dividend perspective.
Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 3 analysts we track are forecasting for Barrett Business Services for free with public analyst estimates for the company.
If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding 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 email@example.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.