It looks like The Gap, Inc. (NYSE:GPS) is about to go ex-dividend in the next 4 days. Ex-dividend means that investors that purchase the stock on or after the 8th of October will not receive this dividend, which will be paid on the 30th of October.
Gap's next dividend payment will be US$0.2 per share, on the back of last year when the company paid a total of US$1.0 to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Gap stock has a trailing yield of around 5.9% on the current share price of $16.45. Dividends are an important source of income to many shareholders, but the health of the business is crucial to maintaining those dividends. So we need to investigate whether Gap can afford its dividend, and if the dividend could grow.
If a company pays out more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. That's why it's good to see Gap paying out a modest 39% of its earnings. 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. Gap paid out more free cash flow than it generated - 121%, to be precise - last year, which we think is concerningly high. We're curious about why the company paid out more cash than it generated last year, since this can be one of the early signs that a dividend may be unsustainable.
Gap paid out less in dividends than it reported in profits, but unfortunately it didn't generate enough cash to cover the dividend. Cash is king, as they say, and were Gap to repeatedly pay dividends that aren't well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Businesses with shrinking earnings are tricky from a dividend perspective. If business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. So we're not too excited that Gap's earnings are down 2.3% a year over the past five years.
Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. Gap has delivered 11% dividend growth per year on average over the past ten years.
Is Gap worth buying for its dividend? Gap's earnings per share have fallen noticeably and, although it paid out less than half its profit as dividends last year, it paid out a disconcertingly high percentage of its cashflow, which is not a great combination. Bottom line: Gap has some unfortunate characteristics that we think could lead to sub-optimal outcomes for dividend investors.
Curious what other investors think of Gap? 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.
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