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Readers hoping to buy United Parcel Service, Inc. (NYSE:UPS) for its dividend will need to make their move shortly, as the stock is about to trade ex-dividend. 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. This means that investors who purchase United Parcel Service's shares on or after the 21st of May will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 9th of June.
The company's next dividend payment will be US$1.02 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed US$4.08 to shareholders. Calculating the last year's worth of payments shows that United Parcel Service has a trailing yield of 1.9% on the current share price of $216.38. 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.
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. United Parcel Service paid out 68% of its earnings to investors last year, a normal payout level for most businesses. That said, even highly profitable companies sometimes might not generate enough cash to pay the dividend, which is why we should always check if the dividend is covered by cash flow. Thankfully its dividend payments took up just 48% of the free cash flow it generated, which is a comfortable payout ratio.
It's encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don't drop precipitously.
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 business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. With that in mind, we're encouraged by the steady growth at United Parcel Service, with earnings per share up 2.0% on average over the last five years. Earnings per share growth has been slim, and the company is already paying out a majority of its earnings. While there is some room to both increase the payout ratio and reinvest in the business, generally the higher a payout ratio goes, the lower a company's prospects for future growth.
Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. In the last 10 years, United Parcel Service has lifted its dividend by approximately 8.1% 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.
Is United Parcel Service an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? Earnings per share growth has been modest and United Parcel Service paid out over half of its profits and less than half of its free cash flow, although both payout ratios are within normal limits. Overall, it's not a bad combination, but we feel that there are likely more attractive dividend prospects out there.
On that note, you'll want to research what risks United Parcel Service is facing. To help with this, we've discovered 3 warning signs for United Parcel Service (1 makes us a bit uncomfortable!) that you ought to be aware of before buying the shares.
We wouldn't recommend just buying the first dividend stock you see, though. Here's a list of interesting 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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