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3 steps I’d follow to find cheap UK dividend shares to invest in

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There are two components that are of interest to me when looking to find cheap UK dividend shares. The first element is the price, as I don’t want to be buying a stock that I know is overvalued. Second, I want to look at the dividend I’ll be receiving. I want to be happy with the dividend per share, along with the dividend yield. So on the basis of the above, three steps will help me along the way.

Trying to find a cheap share

The first step I could look at would be the price-to-earnings ratio, to try and find a cheap UK dividend share. Usually, a low figure could suggest the company is undervalued. This is because the size of earnings dwarfs the share price, which should be a good sign. If earnings attributable to shareholders are high, then it’s logical to think the dividend paid will be generous. 

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What makes a P/E ratio low enough to for me buy? That’s less easy to compute. Anything below the FTSE 100 average is a good starting point. However, P/E multiples also depend on the industry, so I would want to look at the ratio in comparison to competitors as well. 

One point I do need to remember though is that a low P/E ratio doesn’t always mean a cheap UK dividend share. The stock’s history is important. For example, if the share price has been falling due to bad news, and the earnings figure used is stale, the ratio could be misleading. In fact, this could indicate the dividend might be cut, so I need to do my homework.

Using yield and cover to find UK dividend shares

Step two involves checking the dividend yield of different stocks within the market. This information is readily available, and gives me a good barometer regarding which UK dividend stocks offer the highest yield. 

Just like the P/E ratio though, the figure has to be used carefully. Technically, I could just buy the stock with the highest yield. After all, this offers me the highest dividend relative to the price of the stock.

But again, the share price may have been falling for valid reasons. If the last dividend was paid out several months ago, the dividend yield might not accurately reflect the current situation of the firm. It may see a dividend cut in the future, reducing the yield.

So for UK dividend shares, I need to look at the sustainability of the dividend. This is my third and final step. I can use the dividend cover metric to help me in this regard. It shows how much the earnings cover the dividend. Logically, I want the figure to be above one, and a high number is beneficial.

My thinking is that if the company has enough earnings to cover the dividend, then it ranks as a sustainable (and cheap) UK dividend share worth buying. 

Although I need to be careful with financial equations, the above three steps involving ratios should help me when trying to pick out shares worth buying.

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jonathansmith1 has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. 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.

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