DuPont: Dividend Dynamo, or the Next Blowup?

Dividend investing is a tried-and-true strategy for generating strong, steady returns in economies both good and bad. But as corporate America's slew of dividend cuts and suspensions over the past few years has demonstrated, it's not enough simply to buy a high yield. You also need to make sure those payouts are sustainable.

In the latest edition of this series, let's examine how DuPont (NYSE: DD  ) stacks up in four critical areas to determine whether it's a dividend dynamo or a disaster in the making.

1. Yield
First and foremost, dividend investors like a large forward yield. But if a yield gets too high, it may reflect investors' doubts about the payout's sustainability. If investors had confidence in the stock, they'd be buying it, driving up the share price and shrinking the yield.

DuPont yields 3.7%, considerably better than the S&P 500's 2.2%.

2. Payout ratio
The payout ratio might be the most important metric for judging dividend sustainability. It compares the amount of money a company paid out in dividends last year to the earnings it generated. A ratio that's too high -- say, greater than 80% of earnings -- indicates that the company may be stretching to make payouts it can't afford, even when its dividend yield doesn't seem particularly high.

DuPont has a comfortable payout ratio of 45%.

3. Balance sheet
The best dividend payers have the financial fortitude to fund growth and respond to whatever the economy and competitors throw at them. The interest coverage ratio indicates whether a company is having trouble meeting its interest payments -- any ratio less than 5 is a warning sign. Meanwhile, the debt-to-equity ratio is a good measure of a company's total debt burden.

Let's examine how DuPont stacks up next to its peers:

Company

Debt-to-Equity Ratio

Interest Coverage

DuPont 118% 8 times
Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW  ) 80% 3 times
Huntsman (NYSE: HUN  ) 187% 3 times
Eastman Chemical (NYSE: EMN  ) 84% 11 times

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

DuPont has a moderately high debt-to-equity ratio, but that's not all that unusual in the capital-intensive chemicals industry, and it's earning more than enough to make the interest payments comfortably.

4. Growth
A large dividend is nice; a large growing dividend is even better. To support a growing dividend, we also want to see earnings growth.

Over the past five years, DuPont's earnings per share have grown at an annual rate of 12% -- the best among its peers -- while its dividend has grown at a 2% rate.

The Foolish bottom line
DuPont exhibits a fairly strong dividend bill of health. It has a nice yield, a reasonable payout ratio, and strong growth. Leverage may be moderately high, but it's within industry norms. To stay up to speed on DuPont's progress, or on any other stock, add it to your stock watchlist. If you don't have one yet, you can create a free, personalized watchlist of your favorite stocks by clicking here.

Ilan Moscovitz doesn't own shares of any company mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @TMFDada. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 18, 2011, at 2:56 PM, funfundvierzig wrote:

    But for a single modest increase of 4 cents from 37 to the current 41 cents in Q4 2007, the DuPont quarterly dividend has NOT grown at all in the past five years.

    With debt looming over equity at 118% and tangible shareholder equity very low, this dividend is not going to run away on the upside.

    ...funfun..

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