In this week’s filter created for The Globe and Mail, we screened for U.S. stocks with unsustainable dividends
Depending on an individual’s investment strategy, a large part of portfolio returns may significantly depend on dividends. Hence, it is valuable to be mindful of companies that may cut their dividends in the future due to unsustainable dividend yields. Those are companies we may want to avoid. We will do that by screening for companies that are struggling to cover their costs and whose profits have been declining over the past couple of years, but who are still raising their dividend yields. We screened the U.S. and American depositary receipt (ADR) companies for unsustainable dividends using the following criteria:
- Market capitalization greater than $1-billion;
- Negative 12-month and 24-month change in the net operating profit after tax (NOPAT) metric – a measure of operating efficiency that excludes the cost and tax benefits of debt financing by simply focusing on the company’s core operations net of taxes;
- Positive one-year dividend growth and a dividend yield greater than 3 per cent;
- Economic Performance Index (EPI) less than one. This is the ratio of return on capital to cost of capital, representing the wealth-creating ability of the company. A ratio above one is key for sustainable investment opportunities;
- Free-cash-flow-to-capital ratio. This ratio gives us an idea of how efficiently the company converts its invested capital to free cash flow, which is the amount left after all capital expenditures have been accounted for. It is an important measure because it gives us the company’s financial capacity to pay dividends, reduce debt and pursue growth opportunities. We are always looking for a positive ratio, but for this screener we will focus on a ratio below 5 per cent.