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 Orora Limited (ASX:ORA) is about to go ex-dividend in just 3 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 of consequence because whenever a stock is bought or sold, the trade takes at least two business day to settle. Thus, you can purchase Orora's shares before the 1st of September in order to receive the dividend, which the company will pay on the 9th of October.
The company's upcoming dividend is AU$0.09 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of AU$0.18 per share to shareholders. Calculating the last year's worth of payments shows that Orora has a trailing yield of 5.1% on the current share price of A$3.52. 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! So we need to investigate whether Orora can afford its dividend, and if the dividend could grow.
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. It paid out 80% of its earnings as dividends last year, which is not unreasonable, but limits reinvestment in the business and leaves the dividend vulnerable to a business downturn. We'd be worried about the risk of a drop in 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. Over the last year, it paid out dividends equivalent to 237% of what it generated in free cash flow, a disturbingly high percentage. Our definition of free cash flow excludes cash generated from asset sales, so since Orora is paying out such a high percentage of its cash flow, it might be worth seeing if it sold assets or had similar events that might have led to such a high dividend payment.
While Orora's dividends were covered by the company's reported profits, cash is somewhat more important, so it's not great to see that the company didn't generate enough cash to pay its dividend. Cash is king, as they say, and were Orora to repeatedly pay dividends that aren't well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Companies that aren't growing their earnings can still be valuable, but it is even more important to assess the sustainability of the dividend if it looks like the company will struggle to grow. If earnings fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. With that in mind, we're not enthused to see that Orora's earnings per share have remained effectively flat over the past five years. It's better than seeing them drop, certainly, but over the long term, all of the best dividend stocks are able to meaningfully 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. Since the start of our data, nine years ago, Orora has lifted its dividend by approximately 10% a year on average.
The Bottom Line
Is Orora worth buying for its dividend? Earnings per share have not grown and Orora's profit payout ratio looks reasonable. However, it paid out a disconcertingly high percentage of its cashflow, which is a worry. It's not the most attractive proposition from a dividend perspective, and we'd probably give this one a miss for now.
With that in mind though, if the poor dividend characteristics of Orora don't faze you, it's worth being mindful of the risks involved with this business. Case in point: We've spotted 2 warning signs for Orora 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.