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Don't Buy Proximus PLC (EBR:PROX) For Its Next Dividend Without Doing These Checks

Simply Wall St

Some investors rely on dividends for growing their wealth, and if you're one of those dividend sleuths, you might be intrigued to know that Proximus PLC (EBR:PROX) is about to go ex-dividend in just 2 days. This means that investors who purchase shares on or after the 4th of December will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 6th of December.

Proximus's next dividend payment will be €0.35 per share, on the back of last year when the company paid a total of €1.50 to shareholders. Last year's total dividend payments show that Proximus has a trailing yield of 5.5% on the current share price of €27.38. We love seeing companies pay a dividend, but it's also important to be sure that laying the golden eggs isn't going to kill our golden goose! That's why we should always check whether the dividend payments appear sustainable, and if the company is growing.

View our latest analysis for Proximus

Dividends are typically paid out of company income, so if a company pays out more than it earned, its dividend is usually at a higher risk of being cut. Last year, Proximus paid out 92% of its income as dividends, which is above a level that we're comfortable with, especially if the company needs to reinvest in its business. 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. Over the last year it paid out 75% of its free cash flow as dividends, within the usual range for most companies.

It's good to see that while Proximus's dividends were not well covered by profits, at least they are affordable from a cash perspective. Still, if this were to happen repeatedly, we'd be concerned about whether the dividend is sustainable in a downturn.

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

ENXTBR:PROX Historical Dividend Yield, December 1st 2019

Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?

Companies with falling earnings are riskier for dividend shareholders. 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 Proximus's earnings are down 3.8% 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. Proximus's dividend payments per share have declined at 3.7% per year on average over the past ten years, which is uninspiring. It's never nice to see earnings and dividends falling, but at least management has cut the dividend rather than potentially risk the company's health in an attempt to maintain it.

Final Takeaway

Has Proximus got what it takes to maintain its dividend payments? It's never fun to see a company's earnings per share in retreat. What's more, Proximus is paying out a majority of its earnings and over half its free cash flow. It's hard to say if the business has the financial resources and time to turn things around without cutting the dividend. With the way things are shaping up from a dividend perspective, we'd be inclined to steer clear of Proximus.

Curious what other investors think of Proximus? 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.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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.

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