Dividend investors know that it pays to follow how much of a company's money goes toward funding its payouts. A nice yield now won't matter much if the company can't keep making those payments going forward.

Here, we'll highlight a given company and its closest competitors to see just how safe their dividends are, with a little help from three crucial tools:

  • The interest coverage ratio, or earnings before interest and taxes, divided by interest expense. The interest coverage ratio measures a company's ability to pay the interest on its debt. An interest coverage ratio less than 1.5 is questionable; a number less than 1 means that the company is not bringing in enough money to cover its interest expenses.
  • The EPS payout ratio, or dividends per share divided by earnings per share. The EPS payout ratio measures the percentage of earnings that go toward paying the dividend. A ratio greater than 80% is worrisome.
  • The FCF payout ratio, or dividends per share divided by free cash flow per share. Earnings alone don't always paint a complete picture of a business' health. The FCF payout ratio measures the percentage of free cash flow devoted toward paying the dividend. Again, a ratio greater 80% could be a red flag.

Let's examine NewMarket (NYSE: NEU) and three of its peers.



Interest Coverage

EPS Payout Ratio

FCF Payout Ratio

NewMarket 1.4% 16.5 12.7% 34.5%
Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW) 2.7% 2.7 32.4% 93.2%
DuPont (NYSE: DD) 3.1% 7.1 45.9% -297.8%
PPG Industries (NYSE: PPG) 2.6% 7.7 37.4% 42.0%

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

With an interest coverage of 16.5, NewMarket covers every $1 in interest expenses with more than $16 in operating earnings. Given its EPS payout ratio and FCF payout ratio below 35%, you shouldn't have to worry that NewMarket will need to cut its dividend anytime soon.

Another tool for better investing
Most investors don't keep tabs on their companies. That's a mistake. If you take the time to read past the headlines and crack a filing now and then, you're in a much better position to spot potential trouble early. We can help you keep tabs on your companies with My Watchlist, our free, personalized stock-tracking service.