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Don't Buy Cardinal Health, Inc. (NYSE:CAH) For Its Next Dividend Without Doing These Checks

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Cardinal Health, Inc. (NYSE:CAH) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 4 days. The ex-dividend date is one business day before the record date, which is the cut-off date for shareholders to be present on the company's books to be eligible for a dividend payment. 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. This means that investors who purchase Cardinal Health's shares on or after the 30th of September will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 15th of October.

The company's next dividend payment will be US$0.49 per share, and in the last 12 months, the company paid a total of US$1.96 per share. Looking at the last 12 months of distributions, Cardinal Health has a trailing yield of approximately 3.8% on its current stock price of $51.19. If you buy this business for its dividend, you should have an idea of whether Cardinal Health's dividend is reliable and sustainable. So we need to check whether the dividend payments are covered, and if earnings are growing.

Check out our latest analysis for Cardinal Health

Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned in profit, then the dividend could be unsustainable. Cardinal Health paid out 93% of its earnings, which is more than we're comfortable with, unless there are mitigating circumstances. A useful secondary check can be to evaluate whether Cardinal Health generated enough free cash flow to afford its dividend. Fortunately, it paid out only 28% of its free cash flow in the past year.

It's good to see that while Cardinal Health's dividends were not well covered by profits, at least they are affordable from a cash perspective. Still, if the company continues paying out such a high percentage of its profits, the dividend could be at risk if business turns sour.

Click here to see the company's payout ratio, plus analyst estimates of its future dividends.

historic-dividend
historic-dividend

Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?

Companies with falling earnings are riskier for dividend shareholders. If earnings decline and the company is forced to cut its dividend, investors could watch the value of their investment go up in smoke. Readers will understand then, why we're concerned to see Cardinal Health's earnings per share have dropped 13% a year over the past five years. When earnings per share fall, the maximum amount of dividends that can be paid also falls.

The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. Since the start of our data, 10 years ago, Cardinal Health has lifted its dividend by approximately 9.7% a year on average. The only way to pay higher dividends when earnings are shrinking is either to pay out a larger percentage of profits, spend cash from the balance sheet, or borrow the money. Cardinal Health is already paying out 93% of its profits, and with shrinking earnings we think it's unlikely that this dividend will grow quickly in the future.

Final Takeaway

Should investors buy Cardinal Health for the upcoming dividend? It's never great to see earnings per share declining, especially when a company is paying out 93% of its profit as dividends, which we feel is uncomfortably high. Yet cashflow was much stronger, which makes us wonder if there are some large timing issues in Cardinal Health's cash flows, or perhaps the company has written down some assets aggressively, reducing its income. Bottom line: Cardinal Health has some unfortunate characteristics that we think could lead to sub-optimal outcomes for dividend investors.

With that in mind though, if the poor dividend characteristics of Cardinal Health don't faze you, it's worth being mindful of the risks involved with this business. For example, we've found 3 warning signs for Cardinal Health that we recommend you consider before investing in the business.

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.

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.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.