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Dividend Investors: Don't Be Too Quick To Buy Royal Dutch Shell plc (AMS:RDSA) For Its Upcoming Dividend

Simply Wall St

It looks like Royal Dutch Shell plc (AMS:RDSA) is about to go ex-dividend in the next 3 days. You can purchase shares before the 15th of August in order to receive the dividend, which the company will pay on the 23rd of September.

Royal Dutch Shell's upcoming dividend is US$0.47 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of US$1.88 per share to shareholders. Calculating the last year's worth of payments shows that Royal Dutch Shell has a trailing yield of 6.6% on the current share price of €25.565. If you buy this business for its dividend, you should have an idea of whether Royal Dutch Shell's dividend is reliable and sustainable. We need to see whether the dividend is covered by earnings and if it's growing.

View our latest analysis for Royal Dutch Shell

Dividends are typically paid out of company income, so if a company pays out more than it earned, its dividend is usually at a higher risk of being cut. Its dividend payout ratio is 75% of profit, which means the company is paying out a majority of its earnings. The relatively limited profit reinvestment could slow the rate of future earnings growth We'd be concerned if earnings began to decline. 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. It paid out more than half (51%) of its free cash flow in the past year, which is within an average range for most companies.

It's encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don't drop precipitously.

Click here to see the company's payout ratio, plus analyst estimates of its future dividends.

ENXTAM:RDSA Historical Dividend Yield, August 11th 2019

Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?

Stocks with flat earnings can still be attractive dividend payers, but it is important to be more conservative with your approach and demand a greater margin for safety when it comes to dividend sustainability. If earnings fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. It's not encouraging to see that Royal Dutch Shell's earnings are effectively flat over the past five years. It's better than seeing them drop, certainly, but over the long term, all of the best dividend stocks are able to meaningfully grow their earnings per share.

Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. Royal Dutch Shell has delivered 1.6% dividend growth per year on average over the past 10 years.

To Sum It Up

Should investors buy Royal Dutch Shell for the upcoming dividend? While earnings per share are flat, at least Royal Dutch Shell has not committed itself to an unsustainable dividend, with its earnings and cashflow payout ratios within reasonable bounds. It's not that we think Royal Dutch Shell is a bad company, but these characteristics don't generally lead to outstanding dividend performance.

Ever wonder what the future holds for Royal Dutch Shell? See what the 22 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.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.