Waste Management (NYSE:WM) Could Be A Buy For Its Upcoming Dividend

It looks like Waste Management, Inc. (NYSE:WM) is about to go ex-dividend in the next 4 days. The ex-dividend date occurs one day before the record date which is the day on which shareholders need to be on the company's books in order to receive a dividend. It is important to be aware of the ex-dividend date because any trade on the stock needs to have been settled on or before the record date. Therefore, if you purchase Waste Management's shares on or after the 1st of December, you won't be eligible to receive the dividend, when it is paid on the 16th of December.

The company's next dividend payment will be US$0.65 per share, on the back of last year when the company paid a total of US$2.60 to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Waste Management stock has a trailing yield of around 1.6% on the current share price of $164.46. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. So we need to investigate whether Waste Management can afford its dividend, and if the dividend could grow.

View our latest analysis for Waste Management

If a company pays out more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. Waste Management paid out a comfortable 47% of its profit last year. 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. Over the last year it paid out 53% of its free cash flow as dividends, within the usual range for most companies.

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.

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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 Waste Management's earnings per share have risen 15% per annum over the last five years. Waste Management is paying out a bit over half its earnings, which suggests the company is striking a balance between reinvesting in growth, and paying dividends. Given the quick rate of earnings per share growth and current level of payout, there may be a chance of further dividend increases in the future.

The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. Waste Management has delivered an average of 6.2% per year annual increase in its dividend, based on the past 10 years of dividend payments. We're glad to see dividends rising alongside earnings over a number of years, which may be a sign the company intends to share the growth with shareholders.

To Sum It Up

Is Waste Management an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? Earnings per share have grown at a nice rate in recent times and over the last year, Waste Management paid out less than half its earnings and a bit over half its free cash flow. There's a lot to like about Waste Management, and we would prioritise taking a closer look at it.

With that in mind, a critical part of thorough stock research is being aware of any risks that stock currently faces. Case in point: We've spotted 1 warning sign for Waste Management you should be aware of.

A common investing mistake is buying the first interesting stock you see. Here you can find a full list of high-yield dividend stocks.

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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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