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Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp. (TSE:AQN) Is About To Go Ex-Dividend, And It Pays A 0.8% Yield

Simply Wall St

It looks like Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp. (TSE:AQN) is about to go ex-dividend in the next 4 days. If you purchase the stock on or after the 27th of September, you won't be eligible to receive this dividend, when it is paid on the 15th of October.

Algonquin Power & Utilities's next dividend payment will be CA$0.1 per share, and in the last 12 months, the company paid a total of CA$0.6 per share. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Algonquin Power & Utilities stock has a trailing yield of around 4.1% on the current share price of CA$18.05. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. We need to see whether the dividend is covered by earnings and if it's growing.

See our latest analysis for Algonquin Power & Utilities

If a company pays out more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. It paid out 85% 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. We'd be concerned if earnings began to decline. A useful secondary check can be to evaluate whether Algonquin Power & Utilities generated enough free cash flow to afford its dividend. Algonquin Power & Utilities paid out more free cash flow than it generated - 162%, to be precise - last year, which we think is concerningly high. We're curious about why the company paid out more cash than it generated last year, since this can be one of the early signs that a dividend may be unsustainable.

Algonquin Power & Utilities paid out less in dividends than it reported in profits, but unfortunately it didn't generate enough cash to cover the dividend. Cash is king, as they say, and were Algonquin Power & Utilities to repeatedly pay dividends that aren't well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.

Click here to see the company's payout ratio, plus analyst estimates of its future dividends.

TSX:AQN Historical Dividend Yield, September 22nd 2019

Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?

Stocks in companies that generate sustainable earnings growth often make the best dividend prospects, as it is easier to lift the dividend when earnings are rising. If earnings fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. It's encouraging to see Algonquin Power & Utilities has grown its earnings rapidly, up 24% a year for the past five years. Earnings have been growing quickly, but we're concerned dividend payments consumed most of the company's cash flow over the past year.

The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. Algonquin Power & Utilities has delivered an average of 12% per year annual increase in its dividend, based on the past ten years of dividend payments. It's exciting to see that both earnings and dividends per share have grown rapidly over the past few years.

Final Takeaway

From a dividend perspective, should investors buy or avoid Algonquin Power & Utilities? Earnings per share growth is a positive, and the company's payout ratio looks normal. However, we note Algonquin Power & Utilities paid out a much higher percentage of its free cash flow, which makes us uncomfortable. Overall, it's not a bad combination, but we feel that there are likely more attractive dividend prospects out there.

Ever wonder what the future holds for Algonquin Power & Utilities? See what the ten analysts we track are forecasting, with this visualisation of its historical and future estimated earnings and cash flow

A common investment mistake is buying the first interesting stock you see. Here you can find a list of promising dividend stocks with a greater than 2% yield and an upcoming dividend.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.