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This FTSE 100 stock yields 9%. Here’s why I think its dividend is safe

Finding a high-yield FTSE 100 stock with a safe dividend has become increasingly difficult. After all, many of the index’s popular high yielders have cancelled or suspended their payouts this year. And some have indicated they won’t be paying anything in 2021 either.

However, there’s one big payer in the blue-chip index I think is a brilliant buy today. The company in question is tobacco group Imperial Brands (LSE: IMB). Here I’ll explain why I’m convinced its current 9% yield on a rebased dividend is safe. And also why I think it can grow its earnings and dividends in future.

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Still a top FTSE 100 stock for yield

Earlier this week, in its half-year results, IMB announced it’s reducing its dividend by 33.3%. A cut was widely anticipated, but the timing wasn’t. With new chief executive Stefan Bomhard not set to start until 1 July, the cut wasn’t expected until the full-year results in November.

I think it’s good IMB has given investors early clarity on where they stand. The dividend will enable the company “to accelerate debt repayment”. It will also “support a more flexible approach to capital allocation in the future”. In other words, it will provide the incoming chief executive with some firepower to invest in the business.

The rebased dividend implies a payout of 137.7p per share for IMB’s current financial year ending 30 September. At a share price of 1,535p, this gives the aforementioned handsome yield of 9%. Furthermore, the board said it will be “retaining a progressive dividend policy, growing annually from the rebased level”.

IMB is a FTSE 100 stock with robust dividend cover

Let’s look first at how well earnings support the current year’s dividend. And then at whether IMB is well positioned to grow the annual payout from the rebased level.

Unlike many companies, IMB is still giving guidance on its earnings expectations for the current year. The key components are:

  • Core earnings-per-share (EPS) decline of 2%
  • Plus a “low single-digit” negative impact from Covid-19-related factors
  • A 0.6% negative impact from intellectual property impairment
  • And 0.3% EPS dilution from the sale of its premium cigar business (expected to complete in July)

Assuming the low single-digit Covid-19 impact is 1% to 4%, we get an EPS decline of between 3.9% and 6.9%, with 5.4% at the mid-point. This translates to an EPS range of 254p to 262p, with 258p mid. Last year’s EPS was 273p.

The first thing I’d note is that the rebased dividend of 137.7p is covered a robust 1.8 to 1.9 times by EPS. The second thing is, the price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio is around 6.

The bargain-basement P/E suggests investors could enjoy strong capital gains in addition to juicy dividends. I’d suggest IMB need only deliver relatively modest earnings and dividend growth in future to attract a significant re-rating of its shares.

IMB has a lot to offer

As things stand, I’d expect IMB’s fiscal 2021 EPS to be ahead of the current year’s. This is because, among other things, I see scope for improvement in the performance of its next-generation products, and some increase in its duty-free and travel retail business.

Looking further ahead, I believe pricing power, cost efficiencies, and further potential industry consolidation mean tobacco companies still have a lot to offer investors. As such, I’d be happy to snap up IMB today for its dividend yield and capital gains potential.

Speaking of exciting dividend stocks on offer right now ...

A top income share that boasts a reliably defensive business model… plus a current forecast dividend yield of 4.2% to boot!

With global markets in turmoil as the coronavirus pandemic tightens its grip, turning to shares to generate income isn’t as simple as it used to be…

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G A Chester has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Imperial Brands. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.