Readers hoping to buy Caltex Australia Limited (ASX:CTX) for its dividend will need to make their move shortly, as the stock is about to trade ex-dividend. Ex-dividend means that investors that purchase the stock on or after the 9th of September will not receive this dividend, which will be paid on the 4th of October.
Caltex Australia's next dividend payment will be AU$0.32 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed AU$0.93 to shareholders. Last year's total dividend payments show that Caltex Australia has a trailing yield of 3.9% on the current share price of A$24.02. 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 check whether the dividend payments are covered, and if earnings are growing.
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. Caltex Australia is paying out an acceptable 72% of its profit, a common payout level among 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 more than three-quarters (78%) of its free cash flow generated, which is fairly high and may be starting to limit reinvestment in the business.
It's encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don't drop precipitously.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Businesses with shrinking earnings are tricky from a dividend perspective. If business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. Readers will understand then, why we're concerned to see Caltex Australia's earnings per share have dropped 8.1% a year over the past five years. Ultimately, when earnings per share decline, the size of the pie from which dividends can be paid, shrinks.
Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. Caltex Australia has delivered an average of 14% per year annual increase in its dividend, based on the past 10 years of dividend payments. Growing the dividend payout ratio while earnings are declining can deliver nice returns for a while, but it's always worth checking for when the company can't increase the payout ratio any more - because then the music stops.
The Bottom Line
From a dividend perspective, should investors buy or avoid Caltex Australia? While earnings per share are shrinking, it's encouraging to see that at least Caltex Australia's dividend appears sustainable, with earnings and cashflow payout ratios that are within reasonable bounds. With the way things are shaping up from a dividend perspective, we'd be inclined to steer clear of Caltex Australia.
Ever wonder what the future holds for Caltex Australia? See what the 11 analysts we track are forecasting, with this visualisation of its historical and future estimated earnings and cash flow
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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