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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 Kaiser Aluminum Corporation (NASDAQ:KALU) is about to go ex-dividend in just 3 days. Ex-dividend means that investors that purchase the stock on or after the 22nd of January will not receive this dividend, which will be paid on the 12th of February.
Kaiser Aluminum's next dividend payment will be US$0.72 per share, and in the last 12 months, the company paid a total of US$2.68 per share. Looking at the last 12 months of distributions, Kaiser Aluminum has a trailing yield of approximately 2.8% on its current stock price of $102.98. We love seeing companies pay a dividend, but it's also important to be sure that laying the golden eggs isn't going to kill our golden goose! So we need to investigate whether Kaiser Aluminum can afford its dividend, and if the dividend could grow.
Dividends are typically paid out of company income, so if a company pays out more than it earned, its dividend is usually at a higher risk of being cut. Kaiser Aluminum paid out a disturbingly high 345% of its profit as dividends last year, which makes us concerned there's something we don't fully understand in the business. A useful secondary check can be to evaluate whether Kaiser Aluminum generated enough free cash flow to afford its dividend. It paid out 25% of its free cash flow as dividends last year, which is conservatively low.
It's disappointing to see that the dividend was not covered by profits, but cash is more important from a dividend sustainability perspective, and Kaiser Aluminum 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. Very few companies are able to sustainably pay dividends larger than their reported earnings.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
When earnings decline, dividend companies become much harder to analyse and own safely. If earnings decline and the company is forced to cut its dividend, investors could watch the value of their investment go up in smoke. Readers will understand then, why we're concerned to see Kaiser Aluminum's earnings per share have dropped 28% a year over the past five years. When earnings per share fall, the maximum amount of dividends that can be paid also falls.
Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. Since the start of our data, 10 years ago, Kaiser Aluminum has lifted its dividend by approximately 12% a year on average. That's intriguing, but the combination of growing dividends despite declining earnings can typically only be achieved by paying out a larger percentage of profits. Kaiser Aluminum is already paying out 345% of its profits, and with shrinking earnings we think it's unlikely that this dividend will grow quickly in the future.
From a dividend perspective, should investors buy or avoid Kaiser Aluminum? It's never great to see earnings per share declining, especially when a company is paying out 345% of its profit as dividends, which we feel is uncomfortably high. Yet cashflow was much stronger, which makes us wonder if there are some large timing issues in Kaiser Aluminum's cash flows, or perhaps the company has written down some assets aggressively, reducing its income. Overall it doesn't look like the most suitable dividend stock for a long-term buy and hold investor.
Having said that, if you're looking at this stock without much concern for the dividend, you should still be familiar of the risks involved with Kaiser Aluminum. Our analysis shows 6 warning signs for Kaiser Aluminum that we strongly recommend you have a look at before investing in the company.
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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