QinetiQ Group plc (LON:QQ.) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 3 days. You can purchase shares before the 1st of August in order to receive the dividend, which the company will pay on the 30th of August.
QinetiQ Group's next dividend payment will be UK£0.045 per share, on the back of last year when the company paid a total of UK£0.066 to shareholders. Calculating the last year's worth of payments shows that QinetiQ Group has a trailing yield of 2.3% on the current share price of £2.894. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. We need to see whether the dividend is covered by earnings and if it's growing.
Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned in profit, then the dividend could be unsustainable. QinetiQ Group paid out a comfortable 33% of its profit last year. That said, even highly profitable companies sometimes might not generate enough cash to pay the dividend, which is why we should always check if the dividend is covered by cash flow. Over the past year it paid out 128% of its free cash flow as dividends, which is uncomfortably high. It's hard to consistently pay out more cash than you generate without either borrowing or using company cash, so we'd wonder how the company justifies this payout level.
QinetiQ Group does have a large net cash position on the balance sheet, which could fund large dividends for a time, if the company so chose. Still, smart investors know that it is better to assess dividends relative to the cash and profit generated by the business. Paying dividends out of cash on the balance sheet is not long-term sustainable.
While QinetiQ Group's dividends were covered by the company's reported profits, cash is somewhat more important, so it's not great to see that the company didn't generate enough cash to pay its dividend. Were this to happen repeatedly, this would be a risk to QinetiQ Group's ability to maintain its dividend.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Companies with consistently growing earnings per share generally make the best dividend stocks, as they usually find it easier to grow dividends per share. If earnings decline and the company is forced to cut its dividend, investors could watch the value of their investment go up in smoke. For this reason, we're glad to see QinetiQ Group's earnings per share have risen 14% per annum over the last five years. Earnings have been growing at a decent rate, but we're concerned dividend payments consumed most of the company's cash flow over the past year.
Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. In the last 10 years, QinetiQ Group has lifted its dividend by approximately 4.1% a year on average. It's good to see both earnings and the dividend have improved - although the former has been rising much quicker than the latter, possibly due to the company reinvesting more of its profits in growth.
To Sum It Up
Is QinetiQ Group worth buying for its dividend? We're glad to see the company has been improving its earnings per share while also paying out a low percentage of income. However, it's not great to see it paying out what we see as an uncomfortably high percentage of its cash flow. In summary, while it has some positive characteristics, we're not inclined to race out and buy QinetiQ Group today.
Wondering what the future holds for QinetiQ Group? See what the seven analysts we track are forecasting, with this visualisation of its historical and future estimated earnings and cash flow
We wouldn't recommend just buying the first dividend stock you see, though. Here's a list of interesting dividend stocks with a greater than 2% yield and an upcoming dividend.
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