Dividend paying stocks like Algoma Central Corporation (TSE:ALC) tend to be popular with investors, and for good reason – some research suggests a significant amount of all stock market returns come from reinvested dividends. 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.
In this case, Algoma Central likely looks attractive to investors, given its 3.6% dividend yield and a payment history of over ten years. We’d guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 0.8% of the company’s market capitalisation at the time. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we’ll go through this below.
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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. 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. Algoma Central paid out 33% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. This is a medium payout level that leaves enough capital in the business to fund opportunities that might arise, while also rewarding shareholders. Plus, there is room to increase the payout ratio over time.
In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Last year, Algoma Central paid a dividend while reporting negative free cash flow. While there may be an explanation, we think this behaviour is generally not sustainable.
Is Algoma Central’s Balance Sheet Risky?
As Algoma Central has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. 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 measures total debt load relative to company earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the ability to pay interest on the debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). Algoma Central has net debt of 3.13 times its EBITDA, which is getting towards the limit of most investors’ comfort zones. Judicious use of debt can enhance shareholder returns, but also adds to the risk if something goes awry.
We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company’s net interest expense. With EBIT of 2.86 times its interest expense, Algoma Central’s interest cover is starting to look a bit thin.
Consider getting our latest analysis on Algoma Central’s financial position here.
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 Algoma Central’s dividend payments. The dividend has been stable over the past 10 years, which is great. We think this could suggest some resilience to the business and its dividends. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was CA$0.18 in 2010, compared to CA$0.48 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 10% per year over this time.
It’s rare to find a company that has grown its dividends rapidly over ten years and not had any notable cuts, but Algoma Central has done it, which we really like.
Dividend Growth Potential
Dividend payments have been consistent over the past few years, but we should always check if earnings per share (EPS) are growing, as this will help maintain the purchasing power of the dividend. Algoma Central has grown its earnings per share at 2.3% per annum over the past five years. A payout ratio below 50% leaves ample room to reinvest in the business, and provides finanical flexibility. Earnings per share growth have grown slowly, which is not great, but if the retained earnings can be reinvested effectively, future growth may be stronger.
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. Firstly, the company has a conservative payout ratio, although we’d note that its cashflow in the past year was substantially lower than its reported profit. Earnings growth has been limited, but we like that the dividend payments have been fairly consistent. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Algoma Central from a dividend perspective. It’s not that we think it’s a bad business; just that there are other companies that perform better on these criteria.
Are management backing themselves to deliver performance? Check their shareholdings in Algoma Central in our latest insider ownership analysis.
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.
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