Could Sinotrans Limited (HKG:598) 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.
In this case, Sinotrans likely looks attractive to investors, given its 8.1% dividend yield and a payment history of over ten years. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. During the year, the company also conducted a buyback equivalent to around 0.5% of its market capitalisation. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Sinotrans for its dividend – read on to learn more.
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. Looking at the data, we can see that 37% of Sinotrans’s profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. This is a medium payout level that leaves enough capital in the business to fund opportunities that might arise, while also rewarding shareholders. One of the risks is that management reinvests the retained capital poorly instead of paying a higher dividend.
We also measure dividends paid against a company’s levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Sinotrans paid out 90% of its cash flow last year. This may be sustainable but it does not leave much of a buffer for unexpected circumstances. 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.
Consider getting our latest analysis on Sinotrans’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. Sinotrans 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 CN¥0.02 in 2010, compared to CN¥0.12 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 20% a year over that time. The dividends haven’t grown at precisely 20% every year, but this is a useful way to average out the historical rate of 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 see if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Why take the risk of a dividend getting cut, unless there’s a good chance of bigger dividends in future? Sinotrans has grown its earnings per share at 4.5% per annum over the past five years. A payout ratio below 50% leaves ample room to reinvest in the business, and provides finanical flexibility. However, earnings per share are unfortunately not growing much. Might this suggest that the company should pay a higher dividend instead?
Dividend investors should always want to know if a) a company’s dividends are affordable, b) if there is a track record of consistent payments, and c) if the dividend is capable of growing. Sinotrans’s dividend payout ratios are within normal bounds, although we note its cash flow is not as strong as the income statement would suggest. Second, earnings growth has been ordinary, and its history of dividend payments is chequered – having cut its dividend at least once in the past. Ultimately, Sinotrans 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.
Investors generally tend to favour companies with a consistent, stable dividend policy as opposed to those operating an irregular one. At the same time, there are other factors our readers should be conscious of before pouring capital into a stock. Taking the debate a bit further, we’ve identified 3 warning signs for Sinotrans that investors need to be conscious of moving forward.
Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 3%.
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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.