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Dividend Investors: Don't Be Too Quick To Buy VSE Corporation (NASDAQ:VSEC) For Its Upcoming Dividend

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  • VSEC

Regular readers will know that we love our dividends at Simply Wall St, which is why it's exciting to see VSE Corporation (NASDAQ:VSEC) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next four days. The ex-dividend date is one business day before the record date, which is the cut-off date for shareholders to be present on the company's books to be eligible for a dividend payment. It is important to be aware of the ex-dividend date because any trade on the stock needs to have been settled on or before the record date. Meaning, you will need to purchase VSE's shares before the 2nd of November to receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 17th of November.

The company's upcoming dividend is US$0.09 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of US$0.36 per share to shareholders. Calculating the last year's worth of payments shows that VSE has a trailing yield of 0.7% on the current share price of $50.7. We love seeing companies pay a dividend, but it's also important to be sure that laying the golden eggs isn't going to kill our golden goose! We need to see whether the dividend is covered by earnings and if it's growing.

Check out our latest analysis for VSE

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. VSE paid out more than half (61%) of its earnings last year, which is a regular payout ratio for most companies. Yet cash flows are even more important than profits for assessing a dividend, so we need to see if the company generated enough cash to pay its distribution. VSE paid a dividend despite reporting negative free cash flow over the last twelve months. This may be due to heavy investment in the business, but this is still suboptimal from a dividend sustainability perspective.

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

historic-dividend
historic-dividend

Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?

When earnings decline, dividend companies become much harder to analyse and own safely. If business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. With that in mind, we're discomforted by VSE's 25% per annum decline in earnings in the past five years. Such a sharp decline casts doubt on the future sustainability of the dividend.

VSE also issued more than 5% of its market cap in new stock during the past year, which we feel is likely to hurt its dividend prospects in the long run. Trying to grow the dividend while issuing large amounts of new shares reminds us of the ancient Greek tale of Sisyphus - perpetually pushing a boulder uphill.

The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. In the past 10 years, VSE has increased its dividend at approximately 12% a year on average. That's interesting, but the combination of a growing dividend despite declining earnings can typically only be achieved by paying out more of the company's profits. This can be valuable for shareholders, but it can't go on forever.

The Bottom Line

Is VSE an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? VSE had an average payout ratio, but its free cash flow was lower and earnings per share have been declining. It's not an attractive combination from a dividend perspective, and we're inclined to pass on this one for the time being.

Having said that, if you're looking at this stock without much concern for the dividend, you should still be familiar of the risks involved with VSE. Every company has risks, and we've spotted 2 warning signs for VSE (of which 1 can't be ignored!) you should know about.

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.

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

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