November 30, 2021

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Should You Buy Pitney Bowes Inc. (NYSE:PBI) For Its Dividend?

Dividend paying stocks like Pitney Bowes Inc. (NYSE:PBI) 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. Yet sometimes, investors buy a stock for its dividend and lose money because the share price falls by more than they earned in dividend payments.

With Pitney Bowes yielding 7.1% and having paid a dividend for over 10 years, many investors likely find the company quite interesting. 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 22% of the company’s market capitalisation at the time. 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.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NYSE:PBI Historical Dividend Yield April 29th 2020

Payout ratios

Dividends are usually paid out of company earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, then the dividend might become unsustainable – hardly an ideal situation. Comparing dividend payments to a company’s net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Looking at the data, we can see that 88% of Pitney Bowes’s profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. Paying out a majority of its earnings limits the amount that can be reinvested in the business. This may indicate a commitment to paying a dividend, or a dearth of investment opportunities.

We also measure dividends paid against a company’s levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Pitney Bowes’s cash payout ratio in the last year was 31%, which suggests dividends were well covered by cash generated by 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 Pitney Bowes’s Balance Sheet Risky?

As Pitney Bowes 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 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. Pitney Bowes is carrying net debt of 4.35 times its EBITDA, which is getting towards the upper limit of our comfort range on a dividend stock that the investor hopes will endure a wide range of economic circumstances.

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 2.09 times its interest expense, Pitney Bowes’s interest cover is starting to look a bit thin.

We update our data on Pitney Bowes every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

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 Pitney Bowes’s dividend payments. This dividend has been unstable, which we define as having been cut one or more times over this time. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$1.44 in 2010, compared to US$0.20 last year. Dividend payments have fallen sharply, down 86% over that time.

When a company’s per-share dividend falls we question if this reflects poorly on either external business conditions, or the company’s capital allocation decisions. Either way, we find it hard to get excited about a company with a declining dividend.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, and a poor history of shrinking dividends, it’s even more important to see if EPS are growing. Pitney Bowes’s earnings per share have shrunk at 31% a year over the past five years. A sharp decline in earnings per share is not great from from a dividend perspective, as even conservative payout ratios can come under pressure if earnings fall far enough.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Pitney Bowes’s dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. Pitney Bowes’s payout ratios are within a normal range for the average corporation, and we like that its cashflow was stronger than reported profits. Earnings per share are down, and Pitney Bowes’s dividend has been cut at least once in the past, which is disappointing. Ultimately, Pitney Bowes comes up short on our dividend analysis. It’s not that we think it is a bad company – just that there are likely more appealing dividend prospects out there on this analysis.

Market movements attest to how highly valued a consistent dividend policy is compared to one which is more unpredictable. Still, investors need to consider a host of other factors, apart from dividend payments, when analysing a company. For example, we’ve identified 5 warning signs for Pitney Bowes (1 is a bit unpleasant!) that you should be aware of before investing.

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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