Some investors rely on dividends for growing their wealth, and if you're one of those dividend sleuths, you might be intrigued to know that Sanford Limited (NZSE:SAN) is about to go ex-dividend in just four days. The ex-dividend date is one business day before the record date, which is the cut-off date for shareholders to be present on the company's books to be eligible for a dividend payment. The ex-dividend date is of consequence because whenever a stock is bought or sold, the trade takes at least two business day to settle. Meaning, you will need to purchase Sanford's shares before the 1st of December to receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 9th of December.
The company's next dividend payment will be NZ$0.12 per share, which looks like a nice increase on last year, when the company distributed a total of NZ$0.10 to shareholders. Dividends are an important source of income to many shareholders, but the health of the business is crucial to maintaining those dividends. As a result, readers should always check whether Sanford has been able to grow its dividends, or if the dividend might be cut.
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. Sanford has a low and conservative payout ratio of just 17% of its income after tax. 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. The good news is it paid out just 0.5% of its free cash flow in the last 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?
Stocks in companies that generate sustainable earnings growth often make the best dividend prospects, as it is easier to lift the dividend when earnings are rising. If earnings fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. With that in mind, we're encouraged by the steady growth at Sanford, with earnings per share up 8.3% on average over the last five years. Earnings per share have been increasing steadily and management is reinvesting almost all of the profits back into the business. This is an attractive combination, because when profits are reinvested effectively, growth can compound, with corresponding benefits for earnings and dividends in the future.
Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. Sanford has seen its dividend decline 8.0% 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.
Is Sanford worth buying for its dividend? Earnings per share have been growing moderately, and Sanford is paying out less than half its earnings and cash flow as dividends, which is an attractive combination as it suggests the company is investing in growth. It might be nice to see earnings growing faster, but Sanford is being conservative with its dividend payouts and could still perform reasonably over the long run. Sanford looks solid on this analysis overall, and we'd definitely consider investigating it more closely.
So while Sanford looks good from a dividend perspective, it's always worthwhile being up to date with the risks involved in this stock. For example, Sanford has 2 warning signs (and 1 which can't be ignored) we think you should know about.
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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