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Is MERCK Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien (ETR:MRK) A Great Dividend Stock?

Simply Wall St

Is MERCK Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien (ETR:MRK) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. If you are hoping to live on your dividends, it's important to be more stringent with your investments than the average punter. Regular readers know we like to apply the same approach to each dividend stock, and we hope you'll find our analysis useful.

A slim 1.2% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, MERCK Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien could have potential. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying MERCK Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

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XTRA:MRK Historical Dividend Yield, December 17th 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. 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 48% of MERCK Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. 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.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. MERCK Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien paid out a conservative 34% 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.

We update our data on MERCK Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

Dividend Volatility

From the perspective of an income investor who wants to earn dividends for many years, there is not much point buying a stock if its dividend is regularly cut or is not reliable. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of MERCK Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien's dividend payments. Its dividend payments have fallen by 20% or more on at least one occasion over the past ten years. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was €0.56 in 2009, compared to €1.25 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 8.4% a year over that time. The dividends haven't grown at precisely 8.4% every year, but this is a useful way to average out the historical rate of growth.

A reasonable rate of dividend growth is good to see, but we're wary that the dividend history is not as solid as we'd like, having been cut at least once.

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? MERCK Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien's earnings per share have been essentially flat over the past five years. Flat earnings per share are acceptable for a time, but over the long term, the purchasing power of the company's dividends could be eroded by inflation.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that MERCK Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. Firstly, we like that MERCK Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien has low and conservative payout ratios. Earnings per share are down, and MERCK Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien's dividend has been cut at least once in the past, which is disappointing. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about MERCK Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien 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.

Given that earnings are not growing, the dividend does not look nearly so attractive. Very few businesses see earnings consistently shrink year after year in perpetuity though, and so it might be worth seeing what the 20 analysts we track are forecasting for the future.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield 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.