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International Game Technology PLC (NYSE:IGT) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next three days. The ex-dividend date is one business day before a company's record date, which is the date on which the company determines which shareholders are entitled 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. Accordingly, International Game Technology investors that purchase the stock on or after the 23rd of May will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 7th of June.
The company's upcoming dividend is US$0.20 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of US$0.80 per share to shareholders. Last year's total dividend payments show that International Game Technology has a trailing yield of 4.0% on the current share price of $20.11. 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! We need to see whether the dividend is covered by earnings and if it's growing.
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 Game Technology paid out 126% of profit in the past year, which we think is typically not sustainable unless there are mitigating characteristics such as unusually strong cash flow or a large cash balance. 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. The good news is it paid out just 12% 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 International Game Technology fortunately did generate enough cash to fund its dividend. If executives were to continue paying more in dividends than the company reported in profits, we'd view this as a warning sign. Very few companies are able to sustainably pay dividends larger than their reported earnings.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
When earnings decline, dividend companies become much harder to analyse and own safely. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. With that in mind, we're discomforted by International Game Technology's 21% per annum decline in earnings in the past five years. Ultimately, when earnings per share decline, the size of the pie from which dividends can be paid, shrinks.
Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. It looks like the International Game Technology dividends are largely the same as they were seven years ago. When earnings are declining yet the dividends are flat, typically the company is either paying out a higher portion of its earnings, or paying out of cash or debt on the balance sheet, neither of which is ideal.
The Bottom Line
From a dividend perspective, should investors buy or avoid International Game Technology? It's never great to see earnings per share declining, especially when a company is paying out 126% of its profit as dividends, which we feel is uncomfortably high. Yet cashflow was much stronger, which makes us wonder if there are some large timing issues in International Game Technology's cash flows, or perhaps the company has written down some assets aggressively, reducing its income. Bottom line: International Game Technology has some unfortunate characteristics that we think could lead to sub-optimal outcomes for dividend investors.
With that in mind though, if the poor dividend characteristics of International Game Technology don't faze you, it's worth being mindful of the risks involved with this business. Be aware that International Game Technology is showing 3 warning signs in our investment analysis, and 1 of those is potentially serious...
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.