It looks like Costco Wholesale Corporation (NASDAQ:COST) is about to go ex-dividend in the next 3 days. Ex-dividend means that investors that purchase the stock on or after the 30th of July will not receive this dividend, which will be paid on the 14th of August.
Costco Wholesale's next dividend payment will be US$0.70 per share, on the back of last year when the company paid a total of US$2.80 to shareholders. Calculating the last year's worth of payments shows that Costco Wholesale has a trailing yield of 0.9% on the current share price of $325.78. If you buy this business for its dividend, you should have an idea of whether Costco Wholesale's dividend is reliable and sustainable. That's why we should always check whether the dividend payments appear sustainable, and if the company is growing.
If a company pays out more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. Costco Wholesale paid out a comfortable 32% of its profit last year. Yet cash flow is typically more important than profit for assessing dividend sustainability, so we should always check if the company generated enough cash to afford its dividend. It distributed 29% of its free cash flow as dividends, a comfortable payout level for most companies.
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?
Businesses with strong growth prospects usually make the best dividend payers, because it's easier to grow dividends when earnings per share are improving. If earnings decline and the company is forced to cut its dividend, investors could watch the value of their investment go up in smoke. Fortunately for readers, Costco Wholesale's earnings per share have been growing at 12% a year for the past five years. Earnings per share are growing rapidly and the company is keeping more than half of its earnings within the business; an attractive combination which could suggest the company is focused on reinvesting to grow earnings further. This will make it easier to fund future growth efforts and we think this is an attractive combination - plus the dividend can always be increased later.
Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. Costco Wholesale has delivered an average of 15% per year annual increase in its dividend, based on the past 10 years of dividend payments. It's exciting to see that both earnings and dividends per share have grown rapidly over the past few years.
Is Costco Wholesale an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? We love that Costco Wholesale is growing earnings per share while simultaneously paying out a low percentage of both its earnings and cash flow. These characteristics suggest the company is reinvesting in growing its business, while the conservative payout ratio also implies a reduced risk of the dividend being cut in the future. Costco Wholesale looks solid on this analysis overall, and we'd definitely consider investigating it more closely.
With that in mind, a critical part of thorough stock research is being aware of any risks that stock currently faces. For example, we've found 2 warning signs for Costco Wholesale that we recommend you consider before investing in the business.
If you're in the market for dividend stocks, we recommend checking our list of top dividend stocks with a greater than 2% yield and an upcoming dividend.
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. 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.
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