December 3, 2021

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Does It Make Sense To Buy Emperor International Holdings Limited (HKG:163) For Its Yield?

Is Emperor International Holdings Limited (HKG:163) 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.

A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for Emperor International Holdings. We’d guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Emperor International Holdings!

SEHK:163 Historical Dividend Yield, March 16th 2020

Payout ratios

Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. As a result, we should always investigate whether a company can afford its dividend, measured as a percentage of a company’s net income after tax. In the last year, Emperor International Holdings paid out 322% 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.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Emperor International Holdings paid out 305% of its free cash flow last year, suggesting the dividend is poorly covered by cash flow. Paying out such a high percentage of cash flow suggests that the dividend was funded from either cash at bank or by borrowing, neither of which is desirable over the long term. Cash is slightly more important than profit from a dividend perspective, but given Emperor International Holdings’s payouts were not well covered by either earnings or cash flow, we would definitely be concerned about the sustainability of this dividend.

Is Emperor International Holdings’s Balance Sheet Risky?

As Emperor International Holdings’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. Emperor International Holdings has net debt of 12.85 times its EBITDA, which we think carries substantial risk if earnings aren’t sustainable.

We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company’s net interest expense. Interest cover of 2.04 times its interest expense is starting to become a concern for Emperor International Holdings, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well. High debt and weak interest cover are not a great combo, and we would be cautious of relying on this company’s dividend while these metrics persist.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Emperor International Holdings’s latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

Dividend Volatility

One of the major risks of relying on dividend income, is the potential for a company to struggle financially and cut its dividend. Not only is your income cut, but the value of your investment declines as well – nasty. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Emperor International Holdings’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 HK$0.082 in 2010, compared to HK$0.11 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 2.9% a year over that time. Emperor International Holdings’s dividend payments have fluctuated, so it hasn’t grown 2.9% every year, but the CAGR is a useful rule of thumb for approximating the historical growth.

We’re glad to see the dividend has risen, but with a limited rate of growth and fluctuations in the payments, we don’t think this is an attractive combination.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, it’s even more important to see if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Why take the risk of a dividend getting cut, unless there’s a good chance of bigger dividends in future? Emperor International Holdings’s earnings per share have shrunk at 43% a year over the past five years. With this kind of significant decline, we always wonder what has changed in the business. Dividends are about stability, and Emperor International Holdings’s earnings per share, which support the dividend, have been anything but stable.

Conclusion

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. Emperor International Holdings paid out almost all of its cash flow and profit as dividends, leaving little to reinvest in the business. 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. There are a few too many issues for us to get comfortable with Emperor International Holdings from a dividend perspective. Businesses can change, but we would struggle to identify why an investor should rely on this stock for their income.

Market movements attest to how highly valued a consistent dividend policy is to one to which is more unpredictable. At the same time, there are other factors our readers should be conscious of before pouring capital into a stock. To that end, Emperor International Holdings has 5 warning signs (and 1 which is concerning) we think you should know about.

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 protected] 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.

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