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It looks like Unity Bancorp, Inc. (NASDAQ:UNTY) is about to go ex-dividend in the next four days. The ex-dividend date is usually set to be one business day before the record date which is the cut-off date on which you must be present on the company's books as a shareholder in order to receive the dividend. The ex-dividend date is an important date to be aware of as any purchase of the stock made on or after this date might mean a late settlement that doesn't show on the record date. Meaning, you will need to purchase Unity Bancorp's shares before the 16th of December to receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 31st of December.
The company's next dividend payment will be US$0.10 per share, and in the last 12 months, the company paid a total of US$0.36 per share. Calculating the last year's worth of payments shows that Unity Bancorp has a trailing yield of 1.5% on the current share price of $25.98. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. As a result, readers should always check whether Unity Bancorp has been able to grow its dividends, or if the dividend might be cut.
Dividends are usually paid out of company profits, so if a company pays out more than it earned then its dividend is usually at greater risk of being cut. Unity Bancorp has a low and conservative payout ratio of just 11% of its income after tax.
Generally speaking, the lower a company's payout ratios, the more resilient its dividend usually is.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Stocks in companies that generate sustainable earnings growth often make the best dividend prospects, as it is easier to lift the dividend when earnings are rising. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. That's why it's comforting to see Unity Bancorp's earnings have been skyrocketing, up 26% per annum for the past five years.
Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. Unity Bancorp has delivered an average of 31% per year annual increase in its dividend, based on the past nine years of dividend payments. It's great to see earnings per share growing rapidly over several years, and dividends per share growing right along with it.
The Bottom Line
Has Unity Bancorp got what it takes to maintain its dividend payments? When companies are growing rapidly and retaining a majority of the profits within the business, it's usually a sign that reinvesting earnings creates more value than paying dividends to shareholders. Perhaps even more importantly - this can sometimes signal management is focused on the long term future of the business. Unity Bancorp ticks a lot of boxes for us from a dividend perspective, and we think these characteristics should mark the company as deserving of further attention.
While it's tempting to invest in Unity Bancorp for the dividends alone, you should always be mindful of the risks involved. We've identified 3 warning signs with Unity Bancorp (at least 1 which doesn't sit too well with us), and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
We wouldn't recommend just buying the first dividend stock you see, though. Here's a list of interesting dividend stocks with a greater than 2% yield and an upcoming dividend.
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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.