December 7, 2021

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Read This Before Buying Aurizon Holdings Limited (ASX:AZJ) For Its Dividend

Is Aurizon Holdings Limited (ASX:AZJ) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. If you are hoping to live on your dividends, it’s important to be more stringent with your investments than the average punter. Regular readers know we like to apply the same approach to each dividend stock, and we hope you’ll find our analysis useful.

With a nine-year payment history and a 5.6% yield, many investors probably find Aurizon Holdings intriguing. We’d agree the yield does look enticing. During the year, the company also conducted a buyback equivalent to around 2.4% of its market capitalisation. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Aurizon Holdings for its dividend, and we’ll focus on the most important aspects below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Aurizon Holdings!

ASX:AZJ Historical Dividend Yield, March 8th 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. Comparing dividend payments to a company’s net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. In the last year, Aurizon Holdings paid out 88% of its profit as dividends. It’s paying out most of its earnings, which limits the amount that can be reinvested in the business. This may indicate limited need for further capital within the business, or highlight a commitment to paying a dividend.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Aurizon Holdings paid out 59% of its free cash flow last year, which is acceptable, but is starting to limit the amount of earnings that can be reinvested into the business. 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.

Is Aurizon Holdings’s Balance Sheet Risky?

As Aurizon Holdings 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). Aurizon Holdings has net debt of 2.27 times its EBITDA. Using debt can accelerate business growth, but also increases the risks.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company’s net interest expense. Aurizon Holdings has EBIT of 6.53 times its interest expense, which we think is adequate.

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

Dividend Volatility

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. The first recorded dividend for Aurizon Holdings, in the last decade, was nine years ago. Although it has been paying a dividend for several years now, the dividend has been cut at least once, and we’re cautious about the consistency of its dividend across a full economic cycle. During the past nine-year period, the first annual payment was AU$0.037 in 2011, compared to AU$0.26 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 24% per year over this time. Aurizon Holdings’s dividend payments have fluctuated, so it hasn’t grown 24% every year, but the CAGR is a useful rule of thumb for approximating the historical growth.

It’s not great to see that the payment has been cut in the past. We’re generally more wary of companies that have cut their dividend before, as they tend to perform worse in an economic downturn.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, it’s even more important to evaluate if earnings per share (EPS) are growing – it’s not worth taking the risk on a dividend getting cut, unless you might be rewarded with larger dividends in future. It’s good to see Aurizon Holdings has been growing its earnings per share at 20% a year over the past five years. A majority of profits are being paid out as dividends, which raises the question of what happens to the current dividend if earnings decline. However, the rapid growth in earnings may indicate that is less of a risk.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Aurizon Holdings’s dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. First, we think Aurizon Holdings is paying out an acceptable percentage of its cashflow and profit. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Aurizon Holdings 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.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 11 analysts we track are forecasting for Aurizon Holdings for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 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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