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 Johnson Controls International plc (NYSE:JCI) is about to go ex-dividend in just 3 days. You can purchase shares before the 13th of March in order to receive the dividend, which the company will pay on the 10th of April.
Johnson Controls International's next dividend payment will be US$0.26 per share, on the back of last year when the company paid a total of US$1.04 to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Johnson Controls International has a trailing yield of 2.7% on the current stock price of $38.16. 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.
If a company pays out more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. It paid out 75% 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. It could become a concern if earnings started to decline. 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. It paid out 104% of its free cash flow in the form of dividends last year, which is outside the comfort zone for most businesses. Companies usually need cash more than they need earnings - expenses don't pay themselves - so it's not great to see it paying out so much of its cash flow.
While Johnson Controls International'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. Were this to happen repeatedly, this would be a risk to Johnson Controls International's ability to maintain its dividend.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
When earnings decline, dividend companies become much harder to analyse and own safely. If earnings fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. Readers will understand then, why we're concerned to see Johnson Controls International's earnings per share have dropped 8.0% a year over the past five years. When earnings per share fall, the maximum amount of dividends that can be paid also falls.
Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. Johnson Controls International has delivered an average of 7.2% per year annual increase in its dividend, based on the past ten 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.
To Sum It Up
Has Johnson Controls International got what it takes to maintain its dividend payments? It's definitely not great to see earnings per share shrinking. The company paid out an acceptable percentage of its income, but an uncomfortably high percentage of its cash flow over the past year. It's not that we think Johnson Controls International is a bad company, but these characteristics don't generally lead to outstanding dividend performance.
Having said that, if you're looking at this stock without much concern for the dividend, you should still be familiar of the risks involved with Johnson Controls International. Every company has risks, and we've spotted 2 warning signs for Johnson Controls International you should know about.
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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