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Readers hoping to buy ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) for its dividend will need to make their move shortly, as the stock is about to trade ex-dividend. If you purchase the stock on or after the 19th of July, you won't be eligible to receive this dividend, when it is paid on the 3rd of September.
ConocoPhillips's next dividend payment will be US$0.30 per share, on the back of last year when the company paid a total of US$1.22 to shareholders. Looking at the last 12 months of distributions, ConocoPhillips has a trailing yield of approximately 2.0% on its current stock price of $59.75. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. We need to see whether the dividend is covered by earnings and if it's growing.
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. ConocoPhillips has a low and conservative payout ratio of just 19% of its income after tax. That said, even highly profitable companies sometimes might not generate enough cash to pay the dividend, which is why we should always check if the dividend is covered by cash flow. It paid out 21% of its free cash flow as dividends last year, which is conservatively low.
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.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Stocks with flat earnings can still be attractive dividend payers, but it is important to be more conservative with your approach and demand a greater margin for safety when it comes to dividend sustainability. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. It's not encouraging to see that ConocoPhillips's earnings are effectively flat over the past five years. Better than seeing them fall off a cliff, for sure, but the best dividend stocks grow their earnings meaningfully over the long run.
The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. ConocoPhillips's dividend payments per share have declined at 4.2% per year on average over the past 10 years, which is uninspiring.
To Sum It Up
Should investors buy ConocoPhillips for the upcoming dividend? Earnings per share have been flat, although at least the company is paying out a low and conservative percentage of both its earnings and cash flow. It's definitely not great to see earnings falling, but at least there may be some buffer before the dividend gets cut. In summary, while it has some positive characteristics, we're not inclined to race out and buy ConocoPhillips today.
Curious what other investors think of ConocoPhillips? See what analysts are forecasting, with this visualisation of its historical and future estimated earnings and cash flow .
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.