Don't Race Out To Buy International Business Machines Corporation (NYSE:IBM) Just Because It's Going Ex-Dividend
Regular readers will know that we love our dividends at Simply Wall St, which is why it's exciting to see International Business Machines Corporation (NYSE:IBM) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next four 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 important as the process of settlement involves two full business days. So if you miss that date, you would not show up on the company's books on the record date. Meaning, you will need to purchase International Business Machines' shares before the 9th of February to receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 10th of March.
The company's upcoming dividend is US$1.65 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of US$6.60 per share to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, International Business Machines stock has a trailing yield of around 4.8% on the current share price of $136.94. If you buy this business for its dividend, you should have an idea of whether International Business Machines's dividend is reliable and sustainable. That's why we should always check whether the dividend payments appear sustainable, and if the company is growing.
View our latest analysis for International Business Machines
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. International Business Machines paid out a disturbingly high 334% of its profit as dividends last year, which makes us concerned there's something we don't fully understand in the business. That said, even highly profitable companies sometimes might not generate enough cash to pay the dividend, which is why we should always check if the dividend is covered by cash flow. It paid out more than half (69%) of its free cash flow in the past year, which is within an average range for most companies.
It's good to see that while International Business Machines's dividends were not covered by profits, at least they are affordable from a cash perspective. If executives were to continue paying more in dividends than the company reported in profits, we'd view this as a warning sign. Extraordinarily few companies are capable of persistently paying a dividend that is greater than their profits.
Click here to see the company's payout ratio, plus analyst estimates of its future dividends.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Businesses with shrinking earnings are tricky from a dividend perspective. 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 International Business Machines's 20% per annum decline in earnings in the past five years. Such a sharp decline casts doubt on the future sustainability of the dividend.
Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. Since the start of our data, 10 years ago, International Business Machines has lifted its dividend by approximately 6.9% a year on average. That's intriguing, but the combination of growing dividends despite declining earnings can typically only be achieved by paying out a larger percentage of profits. International Business Machines is already paying out 334% of its profits, and with shrinking earnings we think it's unlikely that this dividend will grow quickly in the future.
Has International Business Machines got what it takes to maintain its dividend payments? Earnings per share have been shrinking in recent times. Additionally, International Business Machines is paying out quite a high percentage of its earnings, and more than half its cash flow, so it's hard to evaluate whether the company is reinvesting enough in its business to improve its situation. It's not the most attractive proposition from a dividend perspective, and we'd probably give this one a miss for now.
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 International Business Machines. We've identified 4 warning signs with International Business Machines (at least 1 which doesn't sit too well with us), and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
If you're in the market for strong dividend payers, we recommend checking our selection of top dividend stocks.
Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.
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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