Readers hoping to buy Associated British Foods plc (LON:ABF) for its dividend will need to make their move shortly, as the stock is about to trade ex-dividend. If you purchase the stock on or after the 12th of December, you won't be eligible to receive this dividend, when it is paid on the 10th of January.
Associated British Foods's next dividend payment will be UK£0.34 per share, on the back of last year when the company paid a total of UK£0.46 to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Associated British Foods stock has a trailing yield of around 1.8% on the current share price of £25.38. Dividends are an important source of income to many shareholders, but the health of the business is crucial to maintaining those dividends. We need to see whether the dividend is covered by earnings and if it's growing.
Dividends are usually paid out of company profits, so if a company pays out more than it earned then its dividend is usually at greater risk of being cut. Fortunately Associated British Foods's payout ratio is modest, at just 42% of profit. A useful secondary check can be to evaluate whether Associated British Foods generated enough free cash flow to afford its dividend. It distributed 46% of its free cash flow as dividends, a comfortable payout level for most companies.
It's positive to see that Associated British Foods's dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Businesses with strong growth prospects usually make the best dividend payers, because it's easier to grow dividends when earnings per share are improving. If business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. This is why it's a relief to see Associated British Foods earnings per share are up 2.9% per annum over the last five years. Earnings per share growth in recent times has not been a standout. However, companies that see their growth slow can often choose to pay out a greater percentage of earnings to shareholders, which could see the dividend continue to rise.
Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. Associated British Foods has delivered an average of 8.6% per year annual increase in its dividend, based on the past ten years of dividend payments. It's encouraging to see the company lifting dividends while earnings are growing, suggesting at least some corporate interest in rewarding shareholders.
The Bottom Line
Should investors buy Associated British Foods for the upcoming dividend? Earnings per share growth has been growing somewhat, and Associated British Foods is paying out less than half its earnings and cash flow as dividends. This is interesting for a few reasons, as it suggests management may be reinvesting heavily in the business, but it also provides room to increase the dividend in time. We would prefer to see earnings growing faster, but the best dividend stocks over the long term typically combine significant earnings per share growth with a low payout ratio, and Associated British Foods is halfway there. Associated British Foods looks solid on this analysis overall, and we'd definitely consider investigating it more closely.
Ever wonder what the future holds for Associated British Foods? See what the 19 analysts we track are forecasting, with this visualisation of its historical and future estimated earnings and cash flow
A common investment mistake is buying the first interesting stock you see. Here you can find a list of promising dividend stocks with a greater than 2% yield and an upcoming dividend.
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