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Something To Consider Before Buying IPH Limited (ASX:IPH) For The 2.7% Dividend

Simply Wall St

Could IPH Limited (ASX:IPH) be an attractive dividend share to own for the long haul? Investors are often drawn to strong companies with the idea of reinvesting the 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.

Investors might not know much about IPH's dividend prospects, even though it has been paying dividends for the last five years and offers a 2.7% yield. A low yield is generally a turn-off, but if the prospects for earnings growth were strong, investors might be pleasantly surprised by the long-term results. 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

ASX:IPH Historical Dividend Yield, January 30th 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. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. IPH paid out 93% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. Its payout ratio is quite high, and the dividend is not well covered by earnings. If earnings are growing or the company has a large cash balance, this might be sustainable - still, we think it is a concern.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. IPH paid out 82% of its cash flow last year. This may be sustainable but it does not leave much of a buffer for unexpected circumstances. It's good to see that while IPH's dividends were not well covered by profits, at least they are affordable from a free cash flow perspective. Still, if the company continues paying out such a high percentage of its profits, the dividend could be at risk if business turns sour.

With a strong net cash balance, IPH investors may not have much to worry about in the near term from a dividend perspective.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of IPH'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. Looking at the data, we can see that IPH has been paying a dividend for the past five years. During the past five-year period, the first annual payment was AU$0.07 in 2015, compared to AU$0.25 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 29% a year over that time.

We're not overly excited about the relatively short history of dividend payments, however the dividend is growing at a nice rate and we might take a closer look.

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. Earnings have grown at around 5.5% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! Although per-share earnings are growing at a credible rate, virtually all of the income is being paid out as dividends to shareholders. This is okay, but may limit growth in the company's future dividend payments.

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. We're a bit uncomfortable with its high payout ratio, although at least the dividend was covered by free cash flow. Unfortunately, earnings growth has also been mediocre, and we think it has not been paying dividends long enough to demonstrate resilience across economic cycles. With this information in mind, we think IPH may not be an ideal dividend stock.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 6 IPH analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company.

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 editorial-team@simplywallst.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.