Could Prime People Plc (LON:PRP) 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. 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.
A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for Prime People. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Prime People for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.
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, Prime People paid out 42% 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.
Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Prime People's cash payout ratio in the last year was 33%, which suggests dividends were well covered by cash generated by the business. 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.
With a strong net cash balance, Prime People investors may not have much to worry about in the near term from a dividend perspective.
Consider getting our latest analysis on Prime People's financial position here.
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. Prime People has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. The dividend has been cut on at least one occasion historically. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was UK£0.03 in 2010, compared to UK£0.052 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 5.7% a year over that time. Prime People's dividend payments have fluctuated, so it hasn't grown 5.7% every year, but the CAGR is a useful rule of thumb for approximating the historical growth.
It's good to see the dividend growing at a decent rate, but the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. Prime People might have put its house in order since then, but we remain cautious.
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? It's good to see Prime People has been growing its earnings per share at 12% a year over the past five years. A company paying out less than a quarter of its earnings as dividends, and growing earnings at more than 10% per annum, looks to be right in the cusp of its growth phase. At the right price, we might be interested.
We'd also point out that Prime People issued a meaningful number of new shares in the past year. Trying to grow the dividend when issuing new shares reminds us of the ancient Greek tale of Sisyphus - perpetually pushing a boulder uphill. Companies that consistently issue new shares are often suboptimal from a dividend perspective.
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. Firstly, we like that Prime People has low and conservative payout ratios. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. Prime People performs highly under this analysis, although it falls slightly short of our exacting standards. At the right valuation, it could be a solid dividend prospect.
Now, if you want to look closer, it would be worth checking out our free research on Prime People management tenure, salary, and performance.
We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 3%.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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