Regular readers will know that we love our dividends at Simply Wall St, which is why it's exciting to see V.F. Corporation (NYSE:VFC) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 2 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 an important date to be aware of as any purchase of the stock made on or after this date might mean a late settlement that doesn't show on the record date. Accordingly, V.F investors that purchase the stock on or after the 9th of June will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 21st of June.
The company's next dividend payment will be US$0.49 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed US$1.90 to shareholders. Calculating the last year's worth of payments shows that V.F has a trailing yield of 2.4% on the current share price of $79.03. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. That's why we should always check whether the dividend payments appear sustainable, and if the company is growing.
If a company pays out more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. Last year, V.F paid out 213% of its profit to shareholders in the form of dividends. This is not sustainable behaviour and requires a closer look on behalf of the purchaser. 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. Dividends consumed 73% of the company's free cash flow last year, which is within a normal range for most dividend-paying organisations.
It's disappointing to see that the dividend was not covered by profits, but cash is more important from a dividend sustainability perspective, and V.F fortunately did generate enough cash to fund its dividend. If executives were to continue paying more in dividends than the company reported in profits, we'd view this as a warning sign. 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. If earnings fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. Readers will understand then, why we're concerned to see V.F's earnings per share have dropped 21% 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.
Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. Since the start of our data, 10 years ago, V.F has lifted its dividend by approximately 12% a year on average. The only way to pay higher dividends when earnings are shrinking is either to pay out a larger percentage of profits, spend cash from the balance sheet, or borrow the money. V.F is already paying out a high percentage of its income, so without earnings growth, we're doubtful of whether this dividend will grow much in the future.
Should investors buy V.F for the upcoming dividend? It's never fun to see a company's earnings per share in retreat. What's more, V.F is paying out a majority of its earnings and over half its free cash flow. It's hard to say if the business has the financial resources and time to turn things around without cutting the dividend. Overall it doesn't look like the most suitable dividend stock for a long-term buy and hold investor.
Although, if you're still interested in V.F and want to know more, you'll find it very useful to know what risks this stock faces. For example - V.F has 4 warning signs we think you should be aware of.
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.
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. 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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