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Regular readers will know that we love our dividends at Simply Wall St, which is why it's exciting to see Maximus, Inc. (NYSE:MMS) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 3 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 an important date to be aware of as any purchase of the stock made on or after this date might mean a late settlement that doesn't show on the record date. This means that investors who purchase Maximus' shares on or after the 12th of May will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 31st of May.
The company's next dividend payment will be US$0.28 per share, and in the last 12 months, the company paid a total of US$1.12 per share. Looking at the last 12 months of distributions, Maximus has a trailing yield of approximately 1.7% on its current stock price of $67.46. 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 Maximus has been able to grow its dividends, or if the dividend might be cut.
Dividends are typically paid out of company income, so if a company pays out more than it earned, its dividend is usually at a higher risk of being cut. That's why it's good to see Maximus paying out a modest 28% of its earnings. 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. Luckily it paid out just 22% of its free cash flow last year.
It's positive to see that Maximus's dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.
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 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 encouraged by the steady growth at Maximus, with earnings per share up 8.5% on average over the last five years. Management have been reinvested more than half of the company's earnings within the business, and the company has been able to grow earnings with this retained capital. We think this is generally an attractive combination, as dividends can grow through a combination of earnings growth and or a higher payout ratio over time.
Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. Maximus has delivered 20% dividend growth per year on average over the past 10 years. It's encouraging to see the company lifting dividends while earnings are growing, suggesting at least some corporate interest in rewarding shareholders.
To Sum It Up
Is Maximus an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? Earnings per share growth has been growing somewhat, and Maximus is paying out less than half its earnings and cash flow as dividends. This is interesting for a few reasons, as it suggests management may be reinvesting heavily in the business, but it also provides room to increase the dividend in time. It might be nice to see earnings growing faster, but Maximus is being conservative with its dividend payouts and could still perform reasonably over the long run. Maximus looks solid on this analysis overall, and we'd definitely consider investigating it more closely.
With that in mind, a critical part of thorough stock research is being aware of any risks that stock currently faces. To help with this, we've discovered 1 warning sign for Maximus that you should be aware of before investing in their shares.
If you're in the market for strong dividend payers, we recommend checking our selection of top 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.