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Is It Smart To Buy Encompass Health Corporation (NYSE:EHC) Before It Goes Ex-Dividend?

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Regular readers will know that we love our dividends at Simply Wall St, which is why it's exciting to see Encompass Health Corporation (NYSE:EHC) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 4 days. The ex-dividend date is one business day before a company's record date, which is the date on which the company determines which shareholders are entitled to receive a dividend. The ex-dividend date is an important date to be aware of as any purchase of the stock made on or after this date might mean a late settlement that doesn't show on the record date. Meaning, you will need to purchase Encompass Health's shares before the 30th of September to receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 15th of October.

The company's next dividend payment will be US$0.28 per share, on the back of last year when the company paid a total of US$1.12 to shareholders. Calculating the last year's worth of payments shows that Encompass Health has a trailing yield of 1.5% on the current share price of $77.01. 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! So we need to check whether the dividend payments are covered, and if earnings are growing.

View our latest analysis for Encompass Health

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. That's why it's good to see Encompass Health paying out a modest 29% of its earnings. 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. Thankfully its dividend payments took up just 28% of the free cash flow it generated, which is a comfortable payout ratio.

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.

historic-dividend
historic-dividend

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 earnings fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. For this reason, we're glad to see Encompass Health's earnings per share have risen 14% per annum over the last five years. Earnings per share have been growing rapidly and the company is retaining a majority of its earnings within the business. This will make it easier to fund future growth efforts and we think this is an attractive combination - plus the dividend can always be increased later.

The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. Encompass Health has delivered 5.7% dividend growth per year on average over the past eight years. Earnings per share have been growing much quicker than dividends, potentially because Encompass Health is keeping back more of its profits to grow the business.

To Sum It Up

Should investors buy Encompass Health for the upcoming dividend? We love that Encompass Health is growing earnings per share while simultaneously paying out a low percentage of both its earnings and cash flow. These characteristics suggest the company is reinvesting in growing its business, while the conservative payout ratio also implies a reduced risk of the dividend being cut in the future. There's a lot to like about Encompass Health, and we would prioritise taking a closer look at it.

While it's tempting to invest in Encompass Health for the dividends alone, you should always be mindful of the risks involved. In terms of investment risks, we've identified 2 warning signs with Encompass Health and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

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.

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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