Orora Limited (ASX:ORA) stock is about to trade ex-dividend in four 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. It is important to be aware of the ex-dividend date because any trade on the stock needs to have been settled on or before the record date. This means that investors who purchase Orora's shares on or after the 1st of March will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 12th of April.
The company's next dividend payment will be AU$0.085 per share, on the back of last year when the company paid a total of AU$0.17 to shareholders. Last year's total dividend payments show that Orora has a trailing yield of 4.9% on the current share price of A$3.45. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. As a result, readers should always check whether Orora has been able to grow its dividends, or if the dividend might be cut.
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. Its dividend payout ratio is 75% of profit, which means the company is paying out a majority of its earnings. The relatively limited profit reinvestment could slow the rate of future earnings growth. We'd be worried about the risk of a drop in earnings. 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. The company paid out 98% of its free cash flow over the last year, which we think is outside the ideal range 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 Orora'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 Orora's ability to maintain its dividend.
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. With that in mind, we're encouraged by the steady growth at Orora, with earnings per share up 5.1% on average over the last five years. Earnings have been growing at a steady rate, but we're concerned dividend payments consumed most of the company's cash flow over the past year.
Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. In the last eight years, Orora has lifted its dividend by approximately 11% 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.
The Bottom Line
Has Orora got what it takes to maintain its dividend payments? Orora is paying out a reasonable percentage of its income and an uncomfortably high 98% of its cash flow as dividends. At least earnings per share have been growing steadily. It's not that we think Orora is a bad company, but these characteristics don't generally lead to outstanding dividend performance.
With that in mind though, if the poor dividend characteristics of Orora don't faze you, it's worth being mindful of the risks involved with this business. Every company has risks, and we've spotted 2 warning signs for Orora you should know about.
If you're in the market for strong dividend payers, we recommend checking our selection of top dividend stocks.
Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.
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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