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Analyzing a Company's Financial Statements for Dividend Potential Analyzing a company's financial statements could be the key to unlocking your goals of increasing your dividend payments. Learn more.

By Claire Shefchik

This story originally appeared on MarketBeat

Do you want to increase your income? Maybe you've been looking for a way to boost your investment returns.

Analyzing a company's financial statements could be the key to unlocking your goals of increasing your dividend payments.

Financial statements are the lifeblood of any investor. They can guide you toward determining the profitability prospects of a company and any potential dividends it may make available. This article will show different ways to analyze a company's financial statements to maximize your returns or income.

What is Dividend Potential, and Why is it Important?

Dividend potential in a publicly traded company indicates the company's ability to generate profits and pay out dividends to shareholders.

Many income investors closely consider dividend potential when they analyze a company's financial statements. It can provide valuable insight into the company's performance and future prospects for generating a steady stream of income.

The analysis of dividend potential involves comparing a company's current financial performance against past trends and industry benchmarks and factoring in less tangible metrics like management and competitive advantages. By doing this, you can estimate what future dividends may pay out.

How to Analyze a Company's Financial Statements for Dividend Potential

Analyzing a company's financial statements isn't for casual investors. It can be complex and time-consuming. It requires you to understand the company's financial position and performance thoroughly. But it can be rewarding if you're willing to take the time and educate yourself.

Financial statements are available for any company listed on MarketBeat by clicking on the "Financial Statements" tab (below, using Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL).

Below are some of the key aspects to consider.

Earnings and Revenues

The company's earnings provide information about its profitability, while its revenues offer information about its ability to generate cash flows.

Look at the company's net income (NI), operating income and return on equity (ROE). The company's net income is the amount of money left after all expenses have been deducted from the company's revenue. Operating income is the company's profit from operations after all operating costs have been deducted from the company's gross income.

The ROE measures a company's profitability by dividing net income by the company's shareholders' equity. Suppose a company has a net income of $100,000 and shareholders' equity of $500,000.

To calculate the ROE, use the formula:

ROE = Net Income / Shareholders' Equity = 100,000 / 500,000 = 0.2 or 20%

This indicates that for every dollar invested in shareholders' equity, there was a return of 20%. This company has good potential to pay out dividends to its investors in the near future.

The higher the company's net income, operating income, and return on equity, the more likely it is that it will be able to pay a dividend.

Cash Flow

The company's cash flows provide information about its ability to generate cash and pay out dividends.

The key financial metric to look at here is the company's free cash flow. Free cash flow is the amount available to the company after all operating and capital expenses have been deducted from the company's revenues. The higher the free cash flow, the more likely the company will be able to use that cash to pay out a dividend.

Balance Sheet

The balance sheet provides information about the company's assets, liabilities and equity. The key financial metric to look at when analyzing a company's balance sheet is the company's debt-to-equity ratio. This ratio measures a company's financial leverage by dividing total liabilities by shareholders' equity.

You may want to steer clear of businesses with high debt-to-equity ratios, as they may be less likely to afford to pay out dividends and more likely to go bankrupt during financial hardship.

Other Factors to Consider

Other non-numerical factors — ones you may not find on the financial statements — also factor into a company's potential to pay dividends.

Past Trends

Look at past trends when evaluating a company's dividend potential, including analyzing its historical stock prices, revenue growth rates and cash flows over time. You can gain insight into how well a company has performed in the past and whether or not it may have the ability to pay dividends in the future.

Industry Benchmarks, Competition and Trends

Compare a company's performance against industry benchmarks, which include key financial metrics such as net income and return on equity (described above) against market averages or competing companies. Comparing these benchmarks gives an idea of how well a company performs relative to its peers.

By looking at the competitors' earnings, revenues and cash flows, you can compare each company's prospects for paying dividends. Also, look at current and projected trends within the industry to understand how well the company is positioned relative to its competitors and whether it has strong prospects for earning you income in the future.

Management Quality

Good management teams are essential for successful companies. They can be a key indicator of dividend potential. The most successful management teams have experience with the company's business and industry and a proven track record of success.

Customer Loyalty

Businesses with loyal customers are more likely to generate higher revenues and profits, which can lead to higher dividends. Look for evident customer relationships, such as repeat purchases or high customer satisfaction ratings.

Product Diversification

Is the company only in one market? Companies with multiple products in different markets provide more chances for growth and can generate higher profits and cash flows, making them more likely to pay out dividends. Look for companies with diversified products, geographic locations and revenue streams. If one business area lags, another can pick up the slack.

Competitive Advantages and Disadvantages

Companies with unique competitive advantages such as brand recognition or proprietary technology can sometimes be better positioned to pay dividends than those without clear legs up on the competition. On the other hand, companies with significant competitive disadvantages, such as high costs or low margins, may struggle to generate enough profits to pay out dividends.

Example of a Company with High Dividend Potential

A practical example of a company with a high dividend potential is Apple. Apple has consistently grown its earnings and revenue over the past few years, resulting in strong net income and operating income. It has also maintained a healthy return on equity of over 70%, indicating that the company is generating strong returns for its shareholders.

Furthermore, Apple's free cash flow has remained strong, allowing it to generate enough cash to pay out dividends. All of these factors make it likely that Apple will continue to pay dividends in the future.

Unlocking Dividend Potential

Analyzing a company's financial statements for dividend potential can't be done overnight. It's a complex and time-consuming process. However, by learning how to analyze the company's earnings and revenues, cash flows and balance sheet, you can get a much more accurate assessment of the company's dividend potential.

It can give you an advantage over other investors who don't take the time and are more likely to earn you a steady, lucrative dividend yield.

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