Dividend growth investing is lots of fun, especially if you have a systematic methodology to determining which companies' dividends are safe and which ones' aren't. That is why we created a forward-looking assessment of dividend safety in our innovative, predictive dividend-cut indicator, the Valuentum Dividend Cushion™. In this article, let's evaluate the investment merits of Target (TGT), as well as its dividend under this unique but yet very straightforward framework.
Return on Invested Capital
Target's dividend yield is about average, offering just at a 2.23% annual payout at recent price levels. We prefer yields above 3% and don't include firms with yields below 2% in our dividend growth portfolio. So Target doesn't meet our criteria just yet.
But even if we did, we think the safety of Target 's dividend is poor (please see our definitions at the bottom of this article). We measure the safety of the dividend in a unique but very straightforward fashion. As many know, earnings can fluctuate in any given year, so using the payout ratio in any given year has some limitations. Plus, companies can often encounter unforeseen charges, which makes earnings an even less-than-predictable measure of the safety of the dividend in any given year. We know that companies won't cut the dividend just because earnings have declined or they had a restructuring charge that put them in the red for the quarter (year). As such, we think that assessing the cash flows of a business allows us to determine whether it has the capacity to continue paying these cash outlays well into the future.
That has led us to develop the forward-looking Valuentum Dividend Cushion™. The measure is a ratio that sums the existing cash a company has on hand plus its expected future free cash flows over the next five years and divides that sum by future expected dividends over the same time period. Basically, if the score is above 1, the company has the capacity to pay out its expected future dividends. As income investors, however, we'd like to see a score much larger than 1 for a couple reasons: 1) the higher the ratio, the more "cushion" the company has against unexpected earnings shortfalls, and 2) the higher the ratio, the greater capacity a dividend-payer has in boosting the dividend in the future. For Target, this score is 0.8, revealing that on its current path the firm may not be able to cover its future dividends with net cash on hand and future free cash flow. Just in the past few months alone, the Valuentum Dividend Cushion has predicted the dividend cuts of SuperValu (SVU) in this article here and Roundy's (RNDY) in this article here.
Now on to the potential growth of Target's dividend. As we mentioned above, we think the larger the "cushion" the larger capacity it has to raise the dividend. However, such dividend growth analysis is not complete until after considering management's willingness to increase the dividend. As such, we evaluate the company's historical dividend track record. If there have been no dividend cuts in 10 years, the company has a nice growth rate, and a nice dividend cushion, its future potential dividend growth would be excellent, which is not the case for Target, as their potential is very poor. Target's dividend growth potential is impaired by its balance sheet and its cash-flow profile relative to future dividend payments. However, the shedding of its credit-card operations may improve our take on the company's dividend in a subsequent update.
And because capital preservation is also an important consideration, we assess the risk associated with the potential for capital loss (offering investors a complete picture). In Target's case, we currently think the shares are fairly valued, so the risk of capital loss medium. For a read on how we calculate the fair value estimate for Target, please click here. If we thought the shares were undervalued, the risk of capital loss would be low. All things considered, we don't like the potential growth and safety of Target's dividend, and the yield is a bit low. We'd wait for a dividend increase or a pullback in the shares to consider it in our income portfolio.