It looks like Life Healthcare Group Holdings Limited (JSE:LHC) is about to go ex-dividend in the next three days. Typically, the ex-dividend date is one business day before the record date which is the date on which a company determines the shareholders eligible 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. Accordingly, Life Healthcare Group Holdings investors that purchase the stock on or after the 7th of December will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 12th of December.
The company's upcoming dividend is R0.25 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of R0.50 per share to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Life Healthcare Group Holdings has a trailing yield of 2.9% on the current stock price of ZAR17.04. 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! That's why we should always check whether the dividend payments appear sustainable, and if the company is 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. Life Healthcare Group Holdings paid out a comfortable 38% of its profit last year. 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. Fortunately, it paid out only 31% of its free cash flow in the past year.
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.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Companies with consistently growing earnings per share generally make the best dividend stocks, as they usually find it easier to grow dividends per share. If business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. Fortunately for readers, Life Healthcare Group Holdings's earnings per share have been growing at 11% a year for the past 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.
Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. Life Healthcare Group Holdings has seen its dividend decline 8.4% per annum on average over the past 10 years, which is not great to see. It's unusual to see earnings per share increasing at the same time as dividends per share have been in decline. We'd hope it's because the company is reinvesting heavily in its business, but it could also suggest business is lumpy.
Has Life Healthcare Group Holdings got what it takes to maintain its dividend payments? It's great that Life Healthcare Group Holdings is growing earnings per share while simultaneously paying out a low percentage of both its earnings and cash flow. It's disappointing to see the dividend has been cut at least once in the past, but as things stand now, the low payout ratio suggests a conservative approach to dividends, which we like. It's a promising combination that should mark this company worthy of closer attention.
With that in mind, a critical part of thorough stock research is being aware of any risks that stock currently faces. In terms of investment risks, we've identified 1 warning sign with Life Healthcare Group Holdings and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
Generally, we wouldn't recommend just buying the first dividend stock you see. Here's a curated list of interesting stocks that are strong dividend payers.
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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.
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