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Don't Race Out To Buy Flowers Foods, Inc. (NYSE:FLO) Just Because It's Going Ex-Dividend

Regular readers will know that we love our dividends at Simply Wall St, which is why it's exciting to see Flowers Foods, Inc. (NYSE:FLO) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next four 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. Thus, you can purchase Flowers Foods' shares before the 29th of February in order to receive the dividend, which the company will pay on the 15th of March.

The company's next dividend payment will be US$0.23 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed US$0.92 to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Flowers Foods stock has a trailing yield of around 4.0% on the current share price of US$23.02. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. That's why we should always check whether the dividend payments appear sustainable, and if the company is growing.

Check out our latest analysis for Flowers Foods

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. Flowers Foods distributed an unsustainably high 156% of its profit as dividends to shareholders last year. Without more sustainable payment behaviour, the dividend looks precarious. 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. It paid out 89% of its free cash flow as dividends, which is within usual limits but will limit the company's ability to lift the dividend if there's no growth.

It's good to see that while Flowers Foods's dividends were not covered by profits, at least they are affordable from a cash perspective. Still, if the company repeatedly paid a dividend greater than its profits, we'd be concerned. Very few companies are able to sustainably pay dividends larger than their reported earnings.

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?

When earnings decline, dividend companies become much harder to analyse and own safely. If earnings fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. So we're not too excited that Flowers Foods's earnings are down 4.7% 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. Since the start of our data, 10 years ago, Flowers Foods has lifted its dividend by approximately 8.0% a year on average. That's intriguing, but the combination of growing dividends despite declining earnings can typically only be achieved by paying out a larger percentage of profits. Flowers Foods is already paying out 156% of its profits, and with shrinking earnings we think it's unlikely that this dividend will grow quickly in the future.

Final Takeaway

Is Flowers Foods an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? Earnings per share have been in decline, which is not encouraging. Additionally, Flowers Foods is paying out quite a high percentage of its earnings, and more than half its cash flow, so it's hard to evaluate whether the company is reinvesting enough in its business to improve its situation. It's not an attractive combination from a dividend perspective, and we're inclined to pass on this one for the time being.

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 Flowers Foods. Case in point: We've spotted 4 warning signs for Flowers Foods you should be aware of.

If you're in the market for strong dividend payers, we recommend checking our selection of top dividend stocks.

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

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.

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