Trustpower Limited (NZSE:TPW) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 4 days. Investors can purchase shares before the 21st of November in order to be eligible for this dividend, which will be paid on the 6th of December.
Trustpower's next dividend payment will be NZ$0.20 per share, and in the last 12 months, the company paid a total of NZ$0.34 per share. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Trustpower stock has a trailing yield of around 4.4% on the current share price of NZ$7.68. 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! That's why we should always check whether the dividend payments appear sustainable, and if the company is growing.
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. Trustpower distributed an unsustainably high 164% of its profit as dividends to shareholders last year. Without extenuating circumstances, we'd consider the dividend at risk of a cut. A useful secondary check can be to evaluate whether Trustpower generated enough free cash flow to afford its dividend. It paid out 96% of its free cash flow in the form of dividends last year, which is outside the comfort zone for most businesses. Companies usually need cash more than they need earnings - expenses don't pay themselves - so it's not great to see it paying out so much of its cash flow.
As Trustpower's dividend was not well covered by either earnings or cash flow, we would be concerned that this dividend could be at risk over the long term.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Companies with falling earnings are riskier for dividend shareholders. If earnings fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. With that in mind, we're discomforted by Trustpower's 11% per annum decline in earnings in the past five years. Such a sharp decline casts doubt on the future sustainability of the dividend.
Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. In the last three years, Trustpower has lifted its dividend by approximately 2.0% 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. Trustpower is already paying out 164% of its profits, and with shrinking earnings we think it's unlikely that this dividend will grow quickly in the future.
To Sum It Up
Has Trustpower got what it takes to maintain its dividend payments? Not only are earnings per share declining, but Trustpower is paying out an uncomfortably high percentage of both its earnings and cashflow to shareholders as dividends. This is a starkly negative combination that often suggests a dividend cut could be in the company's near future. It's not an attractive combination from a dividend perspective, and we're inclined to pass on this one for the time being.
Wondering what the future holds for Trustpower? See what the six analysts we track are forecasting, with this visualisation of its historical and future estimated earnings and cash flow
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.
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