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Shareholders Are Loving Exponent, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:EXPO) 0.9% Yield

Simply Wall St

Is Exponent, Inc. (NASDAQ:EXPO) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. Unfortunately, it's common for investors to be enticed in by the seemingly attractive yield, and lose money when the company has to cut its dividend payments.

Investors might not know much about Exponent's dividend prospects, even though it has been paying dividends for the last seven years and offers a 0.9% 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. The company also returned around 1.0% of its market capitalisation to shareholders in the form of stock buybacks over the past year. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Exponent for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Exponent!

NasdaqGS:EXPO Historical Dividend Yield, December 22nd 2019

Payout ratios

Dividends are usually paid out of company earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. 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, Exponent paid out 41% of its profit as dividends. 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. Exponent paid out a conservative 42% of its free cash flow as dividends last year. 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.

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

Consider getting our latest analysis on Exponent's financial position here.

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 Exponent has been paying a dividend for the past seven years. The company has been paying a stable dividend for a while now, which is great. However we'd prefer to see consistency for a few more years before giving it our full seal of approval. During the past seven-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.15 in 2012, compared to US$0.64 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 23% a year over that time.

The dividend has been growing pretty quickly, which could be enough to get us interested even though the dividend history is relatively short. Further research may be warranted.

Dividend Growth Potential

While dividend payments have been relatively reliable, it would also be nice if earnings per share (EPS) were growing, as this is essential to maintaining the dividend's purchasing power over the long term. It's good to see Exponent has been growing its earnings per share at 16% a year over the past five years. Earnings per share have been growing at a good rate, and the company is paying less than half its earnings as dividends. We generally think this is an attractive combination, as it permits further reinvestment in the business.

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. It's great to see that Exponent is paying out a low percentage of its earnings and cash flow. We were also glad to see it growing earnings, although its dividend history is not as long as we'd like. All things considered, Exponent looks like a strong prospect. At the right valuation, it could be something special.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 5 analysts we track are forecasting for Exponent for free with public 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.