Regular readers will know that we love our dividends at Simply Wall St, which is why it's exciting to see Automatic Data Processing, Inc. (NASDAQ:ADP) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next four 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 as the process of settlement involves two full business days. So if you miss that date, you would not show up on the company's books on the record date. Accordingly, Automatic Data Processing investors that purchase the stock on or after the 8th of December will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 1st of January.
The company's next dividend payment will be US$1.25 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed US$5.00 to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Automatic Data Processing stock has a trailing yield of around 1.9% on the current share price of $269.9. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. That's why we should always check whether the dividend payments appear sustainable, and if the company is 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. Automatic Data Processing paid out more than half (57%) of its earnings last year, which is a regular payout ratio for most companies. 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. Over the last year it paid out 54% of its free cash flow as dividends, within the usual range for most companies.
It's positive to see that Automatic Data Processing'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 fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. Fortunately for readers, Automatic Data Processing's earnings per share have been growing at 13% a year for the past five years. Automatic Data Processing is paying out a bit over half its earnings, which suggests the company is striking a balance between reinvesting in growth, and paying dividends. This is a reasonable combination that could hint at some further dividend increases in the future.
Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. Automatic Data Processing has delivered 12% dividend growth per year on average over the past 10 years. Both per-share earnings and dividends have both been growing rapidly in recent times, which is great to see.
To Sum It Up
Is Automatic Data Processing an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? It's good to see earnings are growing, since all of the best dividend stocks grow their earnings meaningfully over the long run. That's why we're glad to see Automatic Data Processing's earnings per share growing, although as we saw, the company is paying out more than half of its earnings and cashflow - 57% and 54% respectively. Overall we're not hugely bearish on the stock, but there are likely better dividend investments out there.
In light of that, while Automatic Data Processing has an appealing dividend, it's worth knowing the risks involved with this stock. Our analysis shows 1 warning sign for Automatic Data Processing and you should be aware of it before buying any 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.
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