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Should You Buy Progress Software Corporation (NASDAQ:PRGS) For Its Dividend?

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Simply Wall St
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Could Progress Software Corporation (NASDAQ:PRGS) be an attractive dividend share to own for the long haul? Investors are often drawn to strong companies with the idea of reinvesting the dividends. On the other hand, investors have been known to buy a stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

Some readers mightn't know much about Progress Software's 1.7% dividend, as it has only been paying distributions for the last three years. While it may not look like much, if earnings are growing it could become quite interesting. During the year, the company also conducted a buyback equivalent to around 1.8% of its market capitalisation. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Progress Software for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NasdaqGS:PRGS Historical Dividend Yield, September 30th 2019
NasdaqGS:PRGS Historical Dividend Yield, September 30th 2019

Payout ratios

Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. As a result, we should always investigate whether a company can afford its dividend, measured as a percentage of a company's net income after tax. In the last year, Progress Software paid out 52% of its profit as dividends. This is a healthy payout ratio, and while it does limit the amount of earnings that can be reinvested in the business, there is also some room to lift the payout ratio over time.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Progress Software paid out 24% of its free cash flow as dividends last year, which is conservative and suggests the dividend is sustainable. 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.

We update our data on Progress Software every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

Dividend Volatility

Before buying a stock for its income, we want to see if the dividends have been stable in the past, and if the company has a track record of maintaining its dividend. The dividend has not fluctuated much, but with a relatively short payment history, we can't be sure this is sustainable across a full market cycle. During the past three-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.50 in 2016, compared to US$0.66 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 9.7% per year over this time.

The dividend has been growing at a reasonable rate, which we like. We're conscious though that one of the best ways to detect a multi-decade consistent dividend-payer, is to watch a company pay dividends for 20 years - a distinction Progress Software has not achieved yet.

Dividend Growth Potential

While dividend payments have been relatively reliable, it would also be nice if earnings per share (EPS) were growing, as this is essential to maintaining the dividend's purchasing power over the long term. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Progress Software has grown its earnings per share at 10% per annum over the past five years. Earnings per share have been growing rapidly, but given that it is paying out more than half of its earnings as dividends, we wonder how Progress Software will keep funding its growth projects in the future.

Conclusion

When we look at a dividend stock, we need to form a judgement on whether the dividend will grow, if the company is able to maintain it in a wide range of economic circumstances, and if the dividend payout is sustainable. Progress Software's payout ratios are within a normal range for the average corporation, and we like that its cashflow was stronger than reported profits. We were also glad to see it growing earnings, although its dividend history is not as long as we'd like. Overall we think Progress Software is an interesting dividend stock, although it could be better.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 3 analysts we track are forecasting for Progress Software for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding above 3%.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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.