Some investors rely on dividends for growing their wealth, and if you're one of those dividend sleuths, you might be intrigued to know that Ashley Services Group Limited (ASX:ASH) is about to go ex-dividend in just 4 days. This means that investors who purchase shares on or after the 27th of August will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 6th of September.
Ashley Services Group's next dividend payment will be AU$0.027 per share, which looks like a nice increase on last year, when the company distributed a total of AU$0.025 to shareholders. Dividends are an important source of income to many shareholders, but the health of the business is crucial to maintaining those dividends. We need to see whether the dividend is covered by earnings and if it's growing.
Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned in profit, then the dividend could be unsustainable. Ashley Services Group is paying out an acceptable 68% of its profit, a common payout level among most companies. Yet cash flow is typically more important than profit for assessing dividend sustainability, so we should always check if the company generated enough cash to afford its dividend. Over the last year it paid out 65% of its free cash flow as dividends, within the usual range for most companies.
It's positive to see that Ashley Services Group'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?
Businesses with shrinking earnings are tricky from a dividend perspective. If earnings fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. With that in mind, we're discomforted by Ashley Services Group's 19% per annum decline in earnings in the past five years. Such a sharp decline casts doubt on the future sustainability of the dividend.
Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. Ashley Services Group's dividend payments per share have declined at 10% per year on average over the past 5 years, which is uninspiring. While it's not great that earnings and dividends per share have fallen in recent years, we're encouraged by the fact that management has trimmed the dividend rather than risk over-committing the company in a risky attempt to maintain yields to shareholders.
The Bottom Line
Is Ashley Services Group worth buying for its dividend? It's never good to see earnings per share shrinking, but at least the dividend payout ratios appear reasonable. We're aware though that if earnings continue to decline, the dividend could be at risk. Overall it doesn't look like the most suitable dividend stock for a long-term buy and hold investor.
Want to learn more about Ashley Services Group's dividend performance? Check out this visualisation of its historical revenue and earnings growth.
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.
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.