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Consolidated Water Co. Ltd. (NASDAQ:CWCO) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 4 days. The ex-dividend date occurs one day before the record date which is the day on which shareholders need to be on the company's books in order 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. Therefore, if you purchase Consolidated Water's shares on or after the 30th of September, you won't be eligible to receive the dividend, when it is paid on the 29th of October.
The company's upcoming dividend is US$0.085 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of US$0.34 per share to shareholders. Last year's total dividend payments show that Consolidated Water has a trailing yield of 2.9% on the current share price of $11.59. Dividends are an important source of income to many shareholders, but the health of the business is crucial to maintaining those dividends. So we need to investigate whether Consolidated Water can afford its dividend, and if the dividend could grow.
Dividends are typically paid out of company income, so if a company pays out more than it earned, its dividend is usually at a higher risk of being cut. An unusually high payout ratio of 201% of its profit suggests something is happening other than the usual distribution of profits to shareholders. Yet cash flow is typically more important than profit for assessing dividend sustainability, so we should always check if the company generated enough cash to afford its dividend. Thankfully its dividend payments took up just 40% of the free cash flow it generated, which is a comfortable payout ratio.
It's disappointing to see that the dividend was not covered by profits, but cash is more important from a dividend sustainability perspective, and Consolidated Water fortunately did generate enough cash to fund its dividend. Still, if the company repeatedly paid a dividend greater than its profits, we'd be concerned. Extraordinarily few companies are capable of persistently paying a dividend that is greater than their profits.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
When earnings decline, dividend companies become much harder to analyse and own safely. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. With that in mind, we're discomforted by Consolidated Water's 20% per annum decline in earnings in the past five years. Such a sharp decline casts doubt on the future sustainability of the dividend.
Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. Consolidated Water has delivered an average of 1.3% per year annual increase in its dividend, based on the past 10 years of dividend payments.
To Sum It Up
From a dividend perspective, should investors buy or avoid Consolidated Water? It's not a great combination to see a company with earnings in decline and paying out 201% of its profits, which could imply the dividend may be at risk of being cut in the future. However, the cash payout ratio was much lower - good news from a dividend perspective - which makes us wonder why there is such a mis-match between income and cashflow. It's not that we think Consolidated Water is a bad company, but these characteristics don't generally lead to outstanding dividend performance.
With that being said, if you're still considering Consolidated Water as an investment, you'll find it beneficial to know what risks this stock is facing. Our analysis shows 3 warning signs for Consolidated Water and you should be aware of them before buying any shares.
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.
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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