Today we'll take a closer look at Infrastrutture Wireless Italiane S.p.A. (BIT:INW) 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 stock for its dividend and lose money because the share price falls by more than they earned in dividend payments.
With only a three-year payment history, and a 2.3% yield, investors probably think Infrastrutture Wireless Italiane is not much of a dividend stock. A low dividend might not be a bad thing, if the company is reinvesting heavily and growing its sales and profits. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Infrastrutture Wireless Italiane for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.
Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned, 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. Looking at the data, we can see that 91% of Infrastrutture Wireless Italiane's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. Its payout ratio is quite high, and the dividend is not well covered by earnings. If earnings are growing or the company has a large cash balance, this might be sustainable - still, we think it is a concern.
In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Infrastrutture Wireless Italiane paid out 74% of its free cash flow last year, which is acceptable, but is starting to limit the amount of earnings that can be reinvested into the business. While the dividend was not well covered by profits, at least they were covered by free cash flow. Still, if the company continues paying out such a high percentage of its profits, the dividend could be at risk if business turns sour.
Is Infrastrutture Wireless Italiane's Balance Sheet Risky?
As Infrastrutture Wireless Italiane'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 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 0.47 times its EBITDA, Infrastrutture Wireless Italiane has an acceptable level of debt.
Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. Infrastrutture Wireless Italiane has interest cover of more than 12 times its interest expense, which we think is quite strong.
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. The company has been paying a stable dividend for a few years now, but we'd like to see more evidence of consistency over a longer period. During the past three-year period, the first annual payment was €0.095 in 2016, compared to €0.21 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 31% per year over this 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. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Infrastrutture Wireless Italiane has grown its earnings per share at 12% per annum over the past five years. While EPS are growing rapidly, Infrastrutture Wireless Italiane paid out a very high 91% of its income as dividends. If earnings continue to grow, this dividend may be sustainable, but we think a payout this high definitely bears watching.
To summarise, shareholders should always check that Infrastrutture Wireless Italiane's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. We're not keen on the fact that Infrastrutture Wireless Italiane paid out such a high percentage of its income, although its cashflow is in better shape. 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 sum, we find it hard to get excited about Infrastrutture Wireless Italiane 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.
Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 17 Infrastrutture Wireless Italiane analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on 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%.
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 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. Thank you for reading.