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Tread With Caution Around Data#3 Limited's (ASX:DTL) 2.2% Dividend Yield

Simply Wall St

Could Data#3 Limited (ASX:DTL) 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.

A 2.2% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests Data#3 has some staying power. Remember though, due to the recent spike in its share price, Data#3's yield will look lower, even though the market may now be factoring in an improvement in its long-term prospects. 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:DTL Historical Dividend Yield, February 5th 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. Data#3 paid out 91% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. This is quite a high payout ratio that suggests the dividend is not well covered by earnings.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Data#3 paid out 180% of its free cash flow last year, suggesting the dividend is poorly covered by cash flow. Paying out more than 100% of your free cash flow in dividends is generally not a long-term, sustainable state of affairs, so we think shareholders should watch this metric closely. Cash is slightly more important than profit from a dividend perspective, but given Data#3's payments were not well covered by either earnings or cash flow, we are concerned about the sustainability of this dividend.

While the above analysis focuses on dividends relative to a company's earnings, we do note Data#3's strong net cash position, which will let it pay larger dividends for a time, should it choose.

We update our data on Data#3 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. Data#3 has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of 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 AU$0.048 in 2010, compared to AU$0.11 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 8.3% a year over that time. Data#3's dividend payments have fluctuated, so it hasn't grown 8.3% every year, but the CAGR is a useful rule of thumb for approximating the historical growth.

Dividends have grown at a reasonable rate, but with at least one substantial cut in the payments, we're not certain this dividend stock would be ideal for someone intending to live on the income.

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. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Data#3 has grown its earnings per share at 19% per annum over the past five years. While EPS are growing rapidly, Data#3 paid out a very high 91% of its income as dividends. If earnings continue to grow, this dividend may be sustainable, but we think a payout this high definitely bears watching.

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. Data#3 paid out almost all of its cash flow and profit as dividends, leaving little to reinvest in the business. We were also glad to see it growing earnings, but it was concerning to see the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. With this information in mind, we think Data#3 may not be an ideal dividend stock.

See if management have their own wealth at stake, by checking insider shareholdings in Data#3 stock.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield 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.