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Don't Race Out To Buy Southern Copper Corporation (NYSE:SCCO) Just Because It's Going Ex-Dividend

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Southern Copper Corporation (NYSE:SCCO) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 3 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 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 Southern Copper's shares on or after the 10th of August will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 25th of August.

The company's next dividend payment will be US$0.75 per share, on the back of last year when the company paid a total of US$3.00 to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Southern Copper has a trailing yield of 6.3% on the current stock price of $47.45. If you buy this business for its dividend, you should have an idea of whether Southern Copper's dividend is reliable and sustainable. 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 Southern Copper

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. Southern Copper paid out 110% of its earnings, which is more than we're comfortable with, unless there are mitigating circumstances. 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. Southern Copper paid out more free cash flow than it generated - 118%, to be precise - last year, which we think is concerningly high. It's hard to consistently pay out more cash than you generate without either borrowing or using company cash, so we'd wonder how the company justifies this payout level.

Cash is slightly more important than profit from a dividend perspective, but given Southern Copper's payouts were not well covered by either earnings or cash flow, we would be concerned about the sustainability of this dividend.

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?

Stocks in companies that generate sustainable earnings growth often make the best dividend prospects, as it is easier to lift the dividend when earnings are rising. If earnings decline and the company is forced to cut its dividend, investors could watch the value of their investment go up in smoke. That's why it's comforting to see Southern Copper's earnings have been skyrocketing, up 30% per annum for the past five years. Earnings per share have been growing rapidly, but the company is paying out an uncomfortably high percentage of its earnings as dividends. Fast-growing businesses normally need to reinvest most of their earnings in order to maintain growth, so we'd suspect that either earnings growth will slow or the dividend may not be increased for a while.

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, Southern Copper has lifted its dividend by approximately 2.0% a year on average. Earnings per share have been growing much quicker than dividends, potentially because Southern Copper is keeping back more of its profits to grow the business.

The Bottom Line

Has Southern Copper got what it takes to maintain its dividend payments? While it's nice to see earnings per share growing, we're curious about how Southern Copper intends to continue growing, or maintain the dividend in a downturn given that it's paying out such a high percentage of its earnings and cashflow. It's not an attractive combination from a dividend perspective, and we're inclined to pass on this one for the time being.

With that being said, if you're still considering Southern Copper as an investment, you'll find it beneficial to know what risks this stock is facing. For example, Southern Copper has 3 warning signs (and 1 which is a bit unpleasant) we think you should know about.

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.

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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