Aflac Incorporated (NYSE:AFL) will increase its dividend from last year's comparable payment on the 1st of March to $0.50. This will take the dividend yield to an attractive 2.4%, providing a nice boost to shareholder returns.
Aflac's Payment Has Solid Earnings Coverage
While it is great to have a strong dividend yield, we should also consider whether the payment is sustainable. Before making this announcement, Aflac was easily earning enough to cover the dividend. This means that most of its earnings are being retained to grow the business.
EPS is set to fall by 2.6% over the next 12 months. If the dividend continues along the path it has been on recently, we estimate the payout ratio could be 26%, which is comfortable for the company to continue in the future.
Aflac Has A Solid Track Record
The company has been paying a dividend for a long time, and it has been quite stable which gives us confidence in the future dividend potential. The dividend has gone from an annual total of $0.70 in 2013 to the most recent total annual payment of $2.00. This implies that the company grew its distributions at a yearly rate of about 11% over that duration. We can see that payments have shown some very nice upward momentum without faltering, which provides some reassurance that future payments will also be reliable.
Dividend Growth May Be Hard To Achieve
Some investors will be chomping at the bit to buy some of the company's stock based on its dividend history. However, Aflac has only grown its earnings per share at 3.1% per annum over the past five years. If Aflac is struggling to find viable investments, it always has the option to increase its payout ratio to pay more to shareholders.
We Really Like Aflac's Dividend
In summary, it is always positive to see the dividend being increased, and we are particularly pleased with its overall sustainability. The company is generating plenty of cash, and the earnings also quite easily cover the distributions. However, it is worth noting that the earnings are expected to fall over the next year, which may not change the long term outlook, but could affect the dividend payment in the next 12 months. Taking this all into consideration, this looks like it could be a good dividend opportunity.
Market movements attest to how highly valued a consistent dividend policy is compared to one which is more unpredictable. However, there are other things to consider for investors when analysing stock performance. Just as an example, we've come across 2 warning signs for Aflac you should be aware of, and 1 of them is potentially serious. Is Aflac not quite the opportunity you were looking for? Why not check out our selection of top dividend stocks.
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