Dividend paying stocks like Flexible Solutions International Inc. (NYSEMKT:FSI) tend to be popular with investors, and for good reason - some research suggests a significant amount of all stock market returns come from reinvested 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.
Flexible Solutions International has only been paying a dividend for a year or so, so investors might be curious about its 5.4% yield. 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. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Looking at the data, we can see that 276% of Flexible Solutions International's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. A payout ratio above 100% is definitely an item of concern, unless there are some other circumstances that would justify it.
Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Unfortunately, while Flexible Solutions International 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 Flexible Solutions International's Balance Sheet Risky?
As Flexible Solutions International's dividend was not well covered by earnings, we need to check its balance sheet for signs of financial distress. A rough way to check this is with these two simple ratios: a) net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and b) net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA measures total debt load relative to company earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the ability to pay interest on the debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). With net debt of 1.04 times its EBITDA, Flexible Solutions International has an acceptable level of debt.
We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company's net interest expense. Flexible Solutions International has EBIT of 5.83 times its interest expense, which we think is adequate.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Flexible Solutions International's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.
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. This company has been paying a dividend for less than 2 years, which we think is too soon to consider it a reliable dividend stock. Its most recent annual dividend was US$0.15 per share.
We like that the dividend hasn't been shrinking. However we're conscious that the company hasn't got an overly long track record of dividend payments yet, which makes us wary of relying on its dividend income.
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. Flexible Solutions International's EPS have fallen by approximately 17% per year. With this kind of significant decline, we always wonder what has changed in the business. Dividends are about stability, and Flexible Solutions International's earnings per share, which support the dividend, have been anything but stable.
When we look at a dividend stock, we need to form a judgement on whether the dividend will grow, if the company is able to maintain it in a wide range of economic circumstances, and if the dividend payout is sustainable. It's a concern to see that the company paid out such a high percentage of its earnings and cashflow as dividends. Second, earnings per share have been in decline, and the dividend history is shorter than we'd like. Using these criteria, Flexible Solutions International looks quite suboptimal from a dividend investment perspective.
Now, if you want to look closer, it would be worth checking out our free research on Flexible Solutions International management tenure, salary, and performance.
If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding above 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 protected]. 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.