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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 Cochlear Limited (ASX:COH) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 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. 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. Accordingly, Cochlear investors that purchase the stock on or after the 28th of March will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 21st of April.
The company's upcoming dividend is AU$1.55 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of AU$3.10 per share to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Cochlear has a trailing yield of 1.4% on the current stock price of A$224.27. 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! As a result, readers should always check whether Cochlear has been able to grow its dividends, or if the dividend might be cut.
Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned in profit, then the dividend could be unsustainable. Cochlear paid out more than half (75%) of its earnings last year, which is a regular payout ratio for most companies. 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. Dividends consumed 72% of the company's free cash flow last year, which is within a normal range for most dividend-paying organisations.
It's positive to see that Cochlear'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 business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. This is why it's a relief to see Cochlear earnings per share are up 3.6% per annum over the last five years. Earnings per share growth has been slim, and the company is already paying out a majority of its earnings. While there is some room to both increase the payout ratio and reinvest in the business, generally the higher a payout ratio goes, the lower a company's prospects for future growth.
The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. Since the start of our data, 10 years ago, Cochlear has lifted its dividend by approximately 2.6% a year on average. 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 Cochlear worth buying for its dividend? Earnings per share growth has been unremarkable, and while the company is paying out a majority of its earnings and cash flow in the form of dividends, the dividend payments don't appear excessive. While it does have some good things going for it, we're a bit ambivalent and it would take more to convince us of Cochlear's dividend merits.
Curious what other investors think of Cochlear? See what analysts are forecasting, with this visualisation of its historical and future estimated earnings and cash flow.
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.