UK Markets open in 6 hrs 6 mins

Why Balfour Beatty plc (LON:BBY) Is A Top Dividend Stock

Simply Wall St

Is Balfour Beatty plc (LON:BBY) 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.

While Balfour Beatty's 2.5% dividend yield is not the highest, we think its lengthy payment history is quite interesting. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Balfour Beatty!

LSE:BBY Historical Dividend Yield May 6th 2020

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. 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 34% of Balfour Beatty's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. This is a middling range that strikes a nice balance between paying dividends to shareholders, and retaining enough earnings to invest in future growth. One of the risks is that management reinvests the retained capital poorly instead of paying a higher dividend.

We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Balfour Beatty paid out a conservative 37% 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.

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

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Balfour Beatty's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

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 Balfour Beatty's dividend payments. Its dividend payments have declined on at least one occasion over the past ten years. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was UK£0.13 in 2010, compared to UK£0.064 last year. The dividend has shrunk at around 7.0% a year during that period. Balfour Beatty's dividend has been cut sharply at least once, so it hasn't fallen by 7.0% every year, but this is a decent approximation of the long term change.

We struggle to make a case for buying Balfour Beatty for its dividend, given that payments have shrunk over the past ten years.

Dividend Growth Potential

Given that dividend payments have been shrinking like a glacier in a warming world, we need to check if there are some bright spots on the horizon. It's good to see Balfour Beatty has been growing its earnings per share at 71% a year over the past five years. Earnings per share have rocketed in recent times, and we like that the company is retaining more than half of its earnings to reinvest. However, always remember that very few companies can grow at double digit rates forever.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Balfour Beatty'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 Balfour Beatty 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. Balfour Beatty 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.

It's important to note that companies having a consistent dividend policy will generate greater investor confidence than those having an erratic one. Still, investors need to consider a host of other factors, apart from dividend payments, when analysing a company. For instance, we've picked out 3 warning signs for Balfour Beatty that investors should take into consideration.

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.