Regular readers will know that we love our dividends at Simply Wall St, which is why it's exciting to see Medifast, Inc. (NYSE:MED) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 3 days. You can purchase shares before the 30th of March in order to receive the dividend, which the company will pay on the 6th of May.
Medifast's next dividend payment will be US$1.13 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed US$4.52 to shareholders. Last year's total dividend payments show that Medifast has a trailing yield of 6.9% on the current share price of $65.18. If you buy this business for its dividend, you should have an idea of whether Medifast's dividend is reliable and sustainable. 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. Medifast is paying out an acceptable 51% of its profit, a common payout level among most companies. 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. Fortunately, it paid out only 48% of its free cash flow in the past year.
It's positive to see that Medifast's dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Companies with consistently growing earnings per share generally make the best dividend stocks, as they usually find it easier to grow dividends per share. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. That's why it's comforting to see Medifast's earnings have been skyrocketing, up 32% per annum for the past five years. Management appears to be striking a nice balance between reinvesting for growth and paying dividends to shareholders. Earnings per share have been growing quickly and in combination with some reinvestment and a middling payout ratio, the stock may have decent dividend prospects going forwards.
Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. In the last four years, Medifast has lifted its dividend by approximately 46% a year on average. It's great to see earnings per share growing rapidly over several years, and dividends per share growing right along with it.
To Sum It Up
From a dividend perspective, should investors buy or avoid Medifast? We like Medifast's growing earnings per share and the fact that - while its payout ratio is around average - it paid out a lower percentage of its cash flow. There's a lot to like about Medifast, and we would prioritise taking a closer look at it.
In light of that, while Medifast has an appealing dividend, it's worth knowing the risks involved with this stock. For example - Medifast has 2 warning signs we think you should be aware of.
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.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.
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