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HP Inc. (NYSE:HPQ) stock is about to trade ex-dividend in 3 days. Typically, the ex-dividend date is one business day before the record date which is the date on which a company determines the shareholders eligible to receive a dividend. The ex-dividend date is important because any transaction on a stock needs to have been settled before the record date in order to be eligible for a dividend. Accordingly, HP investors that purchase the stock on or after the 7th of December will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 5th of January.
The company's next dividend payment will be US$0.25 per share, on the back of last year when the company paid a total of US$1.00 to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, HP has a trailing yield of 2.7% on the current stock price of $37.64. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. So we need to check whether the dividend payments are covered, and if earnings are growing.
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. HP is paying out just 14% of its profit after tax, which is comfortably low and leaves plenty of breathing room in the case of adverse events. Yet cash flows are even more important than profits for assessing a dividend, so we need to see if the company generated enough cash to pay its distribution. The good news is it paid out just 16% of its free cash flow in the last year.
It's positive to see that HP'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?
Stocks in companies that generate sustainable earnings growth often make the best dividend prospects, as it is easier to lift the dividend when earnings are rising. If business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. That's why it's comforting to see HP's earnings have been skyrocketing, up 30% per annum for the past five years. HP looks like a real growth company, with earnings per share growing at a cracking pace and the company reinvesting most of its profits in the business.
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, 10 years ago, HP has lifted its dividend by approximately 12% a year on average. It's great to see earnings per share growing rapidly over several years, and dividends per share growing right along with it.
To Sum It Up
Is HP an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? HP has grown its earnings per share while simultaneously reinvesting in the business. Unfortunately it's cut the dividend at least once in the past 10 years, but the conservative payout ratio makes the current dividend look sustainable. There's a lot to like about HP, and we would prioritise taking a closer look at it.
In light of that, while HP has an appealing dividend, it's worth knowing the risks involved with this stock. We've identified 6 warning signs with HP (at least 2 which don't sit too well with us), and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
If you're in the market for dividend stocks, we recommend checking our list of top dividend stocks with a greater than 2% yield and an upcoming dividend.
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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.