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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 Freightways Limited (NZSE:FRE) is about to go ex-dividend in just four 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. 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. This means that investors who purchase Freightways' shares on or after the 16th of September will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 1st of October.
The company's next dividend payment will be NZ$0.21 per share, and in the last 12 months, the company paid a total of NZ$0.36 per share. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Freightways has a trailing yield of 2.9% on the current stock price of NZ$12.56. 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 Freightways has been able to grow its dividends, or if the dividend might be cut.
If a company pays out more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. Freightways distributed an unsustainably high 112% of its profit as dividends to shareholders last year. Without more sustainable payment behaviour, the dividend looks precarious. 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. The good news is it paid out just 22% of its free cash flow in the last year.
It's disappointing to see that the dividend was not covered by profits, but cash is more important from a dividend sustainability perspective, and Freightways fortunately did generate enough cash to fund its dividend. Still, if the company repeatedly paid a dividend greater than its profits, we'd be concerned. Extraordinarily few companies are capable of persistently paying a dividend that is greater than their profits.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Stocks with flat earnings can still be attractive dividend payers, but it is important to be more conservative with your approach and demand a greater margin for safety when it comes to dividend sustainability. If earnings decline and the company is forced to cut its dividend, investors could watch the value of their investment go up in smoke. With that in mind, we're not enthused to see that Freightways's earnings per share have remained effectively flat over the past five years. We'd take that over an earnings decline any day, but in the long run, the best dividend stocks all grow their earnings per share.
Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. Freightways has delivered 9.7% dividend growth per year on average over the past 10 years.
Should investors buy Freightways for the upcoming dividend? Earnings per share have been effectively flat, which is a bit of a concern given the company is paying out 112% of its profit as dividends, which we feel is uncomfortably high. It's not that we think Freightways is a bad company, but these characteristics don't generally lead to outstanding dividend performance.
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 Freightways. Our analysis shows 3 warning signs for Freightways and you should be aware of them before buying any shares.
We wouldn't recommend just buying the first dividend stock you see, though. Here's a list of interesting dividend stocks with a greater than 2% yield and an upcoming dividend.
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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