Regular readers will know that we love our dividends at Simply Wall St, which is why it's exciting to see Grainger plc (LON:GRI) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 3 days. Ex-dividend means that investors that purchase the stock on or after the 24th of December will not receive this dividend, which will be paid on the 10th of February.
Grainger's upcoming dividend is UK£0.035 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of UK£0.052 per share to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Grainger has a trailing yield of 1.7% on the current stock price of £3.06. 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 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. Fortunately Grainger's payout ratio is modest, at just 26% of profit. Yet cash flow is typically more important than profit for assessing dividend sustainability, so we should always check if the company generated enough cash to afford its dividend. What's good is that dividends were well covered by free cash flow, with the company paying out 14% of its cash flow last year.
It's positive to see that Grainger'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?
Companies that aren't growing their earnings can still be valuable, but it is even more important to assess the sustainability of the dividend if it looks like the company will struggle to grow. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. With that in mind, we're not enthused to see that Grainger's earnings per share have remained effectively flat over the past five years. We'd take that over an earnings decline any day, but in the long run, the best dividend stocks all grow their earnings per share. 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.
We'd also point out that Grainger issued a meaningful number of new shares in the past year. 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.
Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. In the last ten years, Grainger has lifted its dividend by approximately 2.9% a year on average.
Is Grainger an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? The company has barely grown earnings per share over this time, but at least it's paying out a decently low percentage of its earnings and cashflow as dividends. This could suggest management is reinvesting in future growth opportunities. Generally we like to see both low payout ratios and strong earnings per share growth, but Grainger is halfway there. Grainger looks solid on this analysis overall, and we'd definitely consider investigating it more closely.
Wondering what the future holds for Grainger? See what the two 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.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.
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