Regular readers will know that we love our dividends at Simply Wall St, which is why it's exciting to see Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE:PRU) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 4 days. The ex-dividend date is usually set to be one business day before the record date which is the cut-off date on which you must be present on the company's books as a shareholder in order to receive the dividend. The ex-dividend date is important as the process of settlement involves two full business days. So if you miss that date, you would not show up on the company's books on the record date. Meaning, you will need to purchase Prudential Financial's shares before the 20th of November to receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 14th of December.
The company's next dividend payment will be US$1.25 per share, and in the last 12 months, the company paid a total of US$5.00 per share. Looking at the last 12 months of distributions, Prudential Financial has a trailing yield of approximately 5.3% on its current stock price of $94.28. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. So we need to investigate whether Prudential Financial can afford its dividend, and if the dividend could grow.
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. Prudential Financial distributed an unsustainably high 139% of its profit as dividends to shareholders last year. Without more sustainable payment behaviour, the dividend looks precarious.
Generally, the higher a company's payout ratio, the more the dividend is at risk of being reduced.
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 Prudential Financial's earnings per share have dropped 28% 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. Prudential Financial has delivered an average of 12% per year annual increase in its dividend, based on the past 10 years of dividend payments. 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. Prudential Financial is already paying out a high percentage of its income, so without earnings growth, we're doubtful of whether this dividend will grow much in the future.
Is Prudential Financial worth buying for its dividend? Not only are earnings per share shrinking, but Prudential Financial is paying out a disconcertingly high percentage of its profit as dividends. It's not that we hate the business, but we feel that these characeristics are not desirable for investors seeking a reliable dividend stock to own for the long term. This is not an overtly appealing combination of characteristics, and we're just not that interested in this company's dividend.
Having said that, if you're looking at this stock without much concern for the dividend, you should still be familiar of the risks involved with Prudential Financial. In terms of investment risks, we've identified 2 warning signs with Prudential Financial and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
Generally, we wouldn't recommend just buying the first dividend stock you see. Here's a curated list of interesting stocks that are strong dividend payers.
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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.