Today we'll take a closer look at First US Bancshares, Inc. (NASDAQ:FUSB) from a dividend investor's perspective. Owning a strong business and reinvesting the dividends is widely seen as an attractive way of growing your wealth. Yet sometimes, investors buy a popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

A slim 1.0% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, First US Bancshares could have potential. During the year, the company also conducted a buyback equivalent to around 1.1% of its market capitalisation. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying First US Bancshares for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

Dividends are usually paid out of company earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. First US Bancshares paid out 13% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. We like this low payout ratio, because it implies the dividend is well covered and leaves ample opportunity for reinvestment.

From the perspective of an income investor who wants to earn dividends for many years, there is not much point buying a stock if its dividend is regularly cut or is not reliable. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of First US Bancshares's dividend payments. Its dividend payments have declined on at least one occasion over the past ten years. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.44 in 2010, compared to US$0.12 last year. Dividend payments have fallen sharply, down 73% over that time.



When a company's per-share dividend falls we question if this reflects poorly on either external business conditions, or the company's capital allocation decisions. Either way, we find it hard to get excited about a company with a declining dividend.

With a relatively unstable dividend, and a poor history of shrinking dividends, it's even more important to see if EPS are growing. Earnings have grown at around 4.2% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! Growth has been hard to come by. On the plus side, the dividend payout ratio is low and dividends could grow faster than earnings, if the company decides to increase its payout ratio.

Dividend investors should always want to know if a) a company's dividends are affordable, b) if there is a track record of consistent payments, and c) if the dividend is capable of growing. Firstly, we like that First US Bancshares has a low and conservative payout ratio. Second, earnings growth has been ordinary, and its history of dividend payments is chequered - having cut its dividend at least once in the past. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than First US Bancshares out there.

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You can also discover whether shareholders are aligned with insider interests by checking our visualisation of insider shareholdings and trades in First US Bancshares stock.

If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding above 3%.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned.We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Thank you for reading.

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