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Three Things You Should Check Before Buying The Rank Group Plc (LON:RNK) For Its Dividend

Simply Wall St

Dividend paying stocks like The Rank Group Plc (LON:RNK) 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. 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.

In this case, Rank Group likely looks attractive to investors, given its 3.3% dividend yield and a payment history of over ten years. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. That said, the recent jump in the share price will make Rank Group's dividend yield look smaller, even though the company prospects could be improving. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Rank Group for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

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LSE:RNK Historical Dividend Yield, November 25th 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. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Rank Group paid out 108% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. A payout ratio above 100% is definitely an item of concern, unless there are some other circumstances that would justify it.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Of the free cash flow it generated last year, Rank Group paid out 44% as dividends, suggesting the dividend is affordable. It's disappointing to see that the dividend was not covered by profits, but cash is more important from a dividend sustainability perspective, and Rank Group fortunately did generate enough cash to fund its dividend. Still, if the company repeatedly paid a dividend greater than its profits, we'd be concerned. Extraordinarily few companies are capable of persistently paying a dividend that is greater than their profits.

With a strong net cash balance, Rank Group investors may not have much to worry about in the near term from a dividend perspective.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Rank Group'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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Rank Group'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 UK£0.013 in 2009, compared to UK£0.076 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 19% a year over that time. Rank Group's dividend payments have fluctuated, so it hasn't grown 19% every year, but the CAGR is a useful rule of thumb for approximating the historical growth.

So, its dividends have grown at a rapid rate over this time, but payments have been cut in the past. The stock may still be worth considering as part of a diversified dividend portfolio.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, it's even more important to evaluate if earnings per share (EPS) are growing - it's not worth taking the risk on a dividend getting cut, unless you might be rewarded with larger dividends in future. Earnings have grown at around 9.7% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! Although per-share earnings are growing at a credible rate, virtually all of the income is being paid out as dividends to shareholders. This is okay, but may limit growth in the company's future dividend payments.

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. We're a bit uncomfortable with its high payout ratio, although at least the dividend was covered by free cash flow. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than Rank Group out there.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 4 analysts we track are forecasting for Rank Group 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.