Is The Warehouse Group Limited (NZSE:WHS) 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.
In this case, Warehouse Group likely looks attractive to investors, given its 8.0% dividend yield and a payment history of over ten years. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Warehouse Group for its dividend - read on to learn more.
Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. 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, Warehouse Group paid out 104% of its profit as dividends. A payout ratio above 100% is definitely an item of concern, unless there are some other circumstances that would justify it.
Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Of the free cash flow it generated last year, Warehouse Group paid out 34% as dividends, suggesting the dividend is affordable. It's good to see that while Warehouse Group's dividends were not covered by profits, at least they are affordable from a cash perspective. Still, if the company repeatedly paid a dividend greater than its profits, we'd be concerned. Extraordinarily few companies are capable of persistently paying a dividend that is greater than their profits.
Is Warehouse Group's Balance Sheet Risky?
As Warehouse Group's dividend was not well covered by earnings, we need to check its balance sheet for signs of financial distress. A quick check of its financial situation can be done with two ratios: net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA is a measure of a company's total debt. Net interest cover measures the ability to meet interest payments. Essentially we check that a) the company does not have too much debt, and b) that it can afford to pay the interest. With net debt of 0.39 times its EBITDA, Warehouse Group has an acceptable level of debt.
We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company's net interest expense. Warehouse Group has EBIT of 5.13 times its interest expense, which we think is adequate.
Consider getting our latest analysis on Warehouse Group's financial position here.
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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Warehouse Group's dividend payments. Its dividend payments have declined on at least one occasion over the past ten years. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was NZ$0.33 in 2010, compared to NZ$0.17 last year. The dividend has shrunk at around 6.3% a year during that period. Warehouse Group's dividend has been cut sharply at least once, so it hasn't fallen by 6.3% every year, but this is a decent approximation of the long term change.
A shrinking dividend over a ten-year period is not ideal, and we'd be concerned about investing in a dividend stock that lacks a solid record of growing dividends per share.
Dividend Growth Potential
Given that dividend payments have been shrinking like a glacier in a warming world, we need to check if there are some bright spots on the horizon. In the last five years, Warehouse Group's earnings per share have shrunk at approximately 6.6% per annum. A modest decline in earnings per share is not great to see, but it doesn't automatically make a dividend unsustainable. Still, we'd vastly prefer to see EPS growth when researching dividend stocks.
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. We're not keen on the fact that Warehouse Group paid out such a high percentage of its income, although its cashflow is in better shape. Earnings per share have been falling, and the company has cut its dividend at least once in the past. From a dividend perspective, this is a cause for concern. Overall, Warehouse Group falls short in several key areas here. Unless the investor has strong grounds for an alternative conclusion, we find it hard to get interested in a dividend stock with these characteristics.
Investors generally tend to favour companies with a consistent, stable dividend policy as opposed to those operating an irregular one. However, there are other things to consider for investors when analysing stock performance. For example, we've picked out 3 warning signs for Warehouse Group that investors should know about before committing capital to this stock.
If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding above 3%.
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.
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.