Infratil Limited (NZSE:IFT) stock is about to trade ex-dividend in 4 days. The ex-dividend date is usually set to be one business day before the record date which is the cut-off date on which you must be present on the company's books as a shareholder in order to receive the 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. This means that investors who purchase Infratil's shares on or after the 29th of November will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 19th of December.
The company's upcoming dividend is NZ$0.075 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of NZ$0.19 per share to shareholders. Last year's total dividend payments show that Infratil has a trailing yield of 1.9% on the current share price of NZ$9.975. If you buy this business for its dividend, you should have an idea of whether Infratil's dividend is reliable and sustainable. As a result, readers should always check whether Infratil 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. Infratil has a low and conservative payout ratio of just 10% of its income after tax. A useful secondary check can be to evaluate whether Infratil generated enough free cash flow to afford its dividend. Infratil paid out more free cash flow than it generated - 117%, to be precise - last year, which we think is concerningly high. It's hard to consistently pay out more cash than you generate without either borrowing or using company cash, so we'd wonder how the company justifies this payout level.
While Infratil'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 Infratil to repeatedly pay dividends that aren't well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.
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. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. That's why it's comforting to see Infratil's earnings have been skyrocketing, up 73% per annum for the past five years. Earnings have been growing quickly, but we're concerned dividend payments consumed most of the company's cash flow over the past year.
We'd also point out that Infratil issued a meaningful number of new shares in the past year. Trying to grow the dividend while issuing large amounts of new shares reminds us of the ancient Greek tale of Sisyphus - perpetually pushing a boulder uphill.
Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. In the past 10 years, Infratil has increased its dividend at approximately 7.6% a year on average. We're glad to see dividends rising alongside earnings over a number of years, which may be a sign the company intends to share the growth with shareholders.
Should investors buy Infratil for the upcoming dividend? We're glad to see the company has been improving its earnings per share while also paying out a low percentage of income. However, it's not great to see it paying out what we see as an uncomfortably high percentage of its cash flow. While it does have some good things going for it, we're a bit ambivalent and it would take more to convince us of Infratil's dividend merits.
With that in mind, a critical part of thorough stock research is being aware of any risks that stock currently faces. For example, we've found 4 warning signs for Infratil (2 are significant!) that deserve your attention before investing in the shares.
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.