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Does It Make Sense To Buy U.S. Silica Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:SLCA) For Its Yield?

Simply Wall St

Could U.S. Silica Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:SLCA) 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 popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

Investors might not know much about U.S. Silica Holdings's dividend prospects, even though it has been paying dividends for the last six years and offers a 2.1% yield. A 2.1% yield is not inspiring, but the longer payment history has some appeal. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 7.1% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding U.S. Silica Holdings for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on U.S. Silica Holdings!

NYSE:SLCA Historical Dividend Yield, August 5th 2019

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. While U.S. Silica Holdings pays a dividend, it reported a loss over the last year. When a company is loss-making, we next need to check to see if its cash flows can support the dividend.

Unfortunately, while U.S. Silica Holdings pays a dividend, it also reported negative free cash flow last year. While there may be a good reason for this, it's not ideal from a dividend perspective.

Is U.S. Silica Holdings's Balance Sheet Risky?

Given U.S. Silica Holdings is paying a dividend but reported a loss over the past year, we need to check its balance sheet for signs of financial distress. 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. With net debt of 4.88 times its EBITDA, investors are starting to take on a meaningful amount of risk, should the business enter a downturn.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. With EBIT of less than 1 times its interest expense, U.S. Silica Holdings's financial situation is potentially quite concerning. Readers should investigate whether it might be at risk of breaching the minimum requirements on its loans.

We update our data on U.S. Silica Holdings 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. U.S. Silica Holdings has been paying a dividend for the past six years. The dividend has been quite stable over the past six years, which is great to see - although we usually like to see the dividend maintained for a decade before giving it full marks, though. During the past six-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.50 in 2013, compared to US$0.25 last year. This works out to a decline of approximately 50% over that time.

We struggle to make a case for buying U.S. Silica Holdings for its dividend, given that payments have shrunk over the past six years.

Dividend Growth Potential

The other half of the dividend investing equation is evaluating whether earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Growing EPS can help maintain or increase the purchasing power of the dividend over the long run. U.S. Silica Holdings's earnings per share have shrunk at 42% a year over the past five years. With this kind of significant decline, we always wonder what has changed in the business. Dividends are about stability, and U.S. Silica Holdings's earnings per share, which support the dividend, have been anything but stable.

Conclusion

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. We're a bit uncomfortable with U.S. Silica Holdings paying a dividend while loss-making, especially since the dividend was also not well covered by free cash flow. Unfortunately, there hasn't been any earnings growth, and the company's dividend history has been too short for us to evaluate the consistency of the dividend. In this analysis, U.S. Silica Holdings doesn't shape up too well as a dividend stock. We'd find it hard to look past the flaws, and would not be inclined to think of it as a reliable dividend-payer.

Without at least some growth in earnings per share over time, the dividend will eventually come under pressure either from costs or inflation. Businesses can change though, and we think it would make sense to see what analysts are forecasting 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 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. Thank you for reading.