Texas Instruments: Dividend Dynamo or the Next Blowup?

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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.

Let's examine how Texas Instruments (NYS: TXN) stacks up. In this series, we consider four critical factors investors should examine in every dividend stock. We'll then tie it all together to look at whether Texas Instruments is 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.

Texas Instruments yields 2%, basically in line with the S&P 500.

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.

Texas Instruments has a modest payout ratio of 29%.

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 five is a warning sign. Meanwhile, the debt-to-equity ratio is a good measure of a company's total debt burden.

Texas Instruments has a debt-to-equity ratio of 51% and an interest coverage rate of 81 times.

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.

It's been a rocky five years, but all told, Texas Instruments' earnings per share have grown at an average annual rate of 2%, while its dividend has grown at a 34% rate.

The Foolish bottom line
So, is Texas Instruments a dividend dynamo? Perhaps. The stock may not have a huge yield, but the company has a modest payout ratio, an easily manageable debt burden, and a bit of growth to boot. Dividend investors will want to keep an eye whether Texas Instruments is able to increase its earnings growth in the coming years -- as analysts expect -- though the company should be able to continue raising its dividend at a faster rate than earnings growth due to its low payout ratio. If you're looking for some great dividend stocks, I suggest you check out "Secure Your Future With 11 Rock-Solid Dividend Stocks," a special report from the Motley Fool about some serious dividend dynamos. I invite you to grab a free copy to discover everything you need to know about these 11 generous dividend payers -- simply click here.

At the time this article was published Ilan Moscovitzdoesn't own shares of any company mentioned.The Motley Fool owns shares of Texas Instruments. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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