The board of AltaGas Ltd. (TSE:ALA) has announced that it will pay a dividend on the 29th of December, with investors receiving CA$0.28 per share. Based on this payment, the dividend yield for the company will be 4.1%, which is fairly typical for the industry.
AltaGas' Dividend Is Well Covered By Earnings
We like to see a healthy dividend yield, but that is only helpful to us if the payment can continue. Prior to this announcement, AltaGas' earnings easily covered the dividend, but free cash flows were negative. No cash flows could definitely make returning cash to shareholders difficult, or at least mean the balance sheet will come under pressure.
Looking forward, earnings per share is forecast to rise by 9.2% over the next year. Assuming the dividend continues along recent trends, we think the payout ratio could be 47% by next year, which is in a pretty sustainable range.
Although the company has a long dividend history, it has been cut at least once in the last 10 years. The dividend has gone from an annual total of CA$1.44 in 2013 to the most recent total annual payment of CA$1.12. Doing the maths, this is a decline of about 2.5% per year. Generally, we don't like to see a dividend that has been declining over time as this can degrade shareholders' returns and indicate that the company may be running into problems.
The Dividend Looks Likely To Grow
Growing earnings per share could be a mitigating factor when considering the past fluctuations in the dividend. It's encouraging to see that AltaGas has been growing its earnings per share at 22% a year over the past five years. The company doesn't have any problems growing, despite returning a lot of capital to shareholders, which is a very nice combination for a dividend stock to have.
Our Thoughts On AltaGas' Dividend
Overall, this is probably not a great income stock, even though the dividend is being raised at the moment. While AltaGas is earning enough to cover the payments, the cash flows are lacking. We would probably look elsewhere for an income investment.
It's important to note that companies having a consistent dividend policy will generate greater investor confidence than those having an erratic one. At the same time, there are other factors our readers should be conscious of before pouring capital into a stock. For example, we've identified 4 warning signs for AltaGas (1 is a bit unpleasant!) that you should be aware of before investing. Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our collection of strong dividend payers.
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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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.