Today we'll take a closer look at Schneider Electric S.E. (EPA:SU) from a dividend investor's perspective. Owning a strong business and reinvesting the dividends is widely seen as an attractive way of growing your wealth. Yet sometimes, investors buy a popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.
While Schneider Electric's 3.0% dividend yield is not the highest, we think its lengthy payment history is quite interesting. During the year, the company also conducted a buyback equivalent to around 1.4% of its market capitalisation. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.
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. In the last year, Schneider Electric paid out 57% of its profit as dividends. A payout ratio above 50% generally implies a business is reaching maturity, although it is still possible to reinvest in the business or increase the dividend over time.
Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. The company paid out 51% of its free cash flow, which is not bad per se, but does start to limit the amount of cash Schneider Electric has available to meet other needs. It's positive to see that Schneider Electric's dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Schneider Electric's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.
From the perspective of an income investor who wants to earn dividends for many years, there is not much point buying a stock if its dividend is regularly cut or is not reliable. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Schneider Electric's dividend payments. This dividend has been unstable, which we define as having fallen by at least 20% one or more times over this time. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was €1.73 in 2009, compared to €2.35 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 3.1% per year over this time. The dividends haven't grown at precisely 3.1% every year, but this is a useful way to average out the historical rate of growth.
It's good to see some dividend growth, but the dividend has been cut at least once, and the size of the cut would eliminate most of the growth, anyway. We're not that enthused by this.
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. Earnings have grown at around 4.6% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! 4.6% per annum is not a particularly high rate of growth, which we find curious. When a business is not growing, it often makes more sense to pay higher dividends to shareholders rather than retain the cash with no way to utilise it.
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. First, we think Schneider Electric is paying out an acceptable percentage of its cashflow and profit. Second, earnings growth has been ordinary, and its history of dividend payments is chequered - having cut its dividend at least once in the past. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Schneider Electric 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 18 analysts we track are forecasting for Schneider Electric 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%.
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.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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. Thank you for reading.