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Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX) Could Be A Buy For Its Upcoming Dividend

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Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (NYSE:FCX) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 4 days. Typically, the ex-dividend date is one business day before the record date which is the date on which a company determines the shareholders eligible to receive a dividend. The ex-dividend date is of consequence because whenever a stock is bought or sold, the trade takes at least two business day to settle. Therefore, if you purchase Freeport-McMoRan's shares on or after the 14th of October, you won't be eligible to receive the dividend, when it is paid on the 1st of November.

The company's next dividend payment will be US$0.075 per share, and in the last 12 months, the company paid a total of US$0.30 per share. Last year's total dividend payments show that Freeport-McMoRan has a trailing yield of 0.9% on the current share price of $34.13. Dividends are an important source of income to many shareholders, but the health of the business is crucial to maintaining those dividends. So we need to investigate whether Freeport-McMoRan can afford its dividend, and if the dividend could grow.

See our latest analysis for Freeport-McMoRan

Dividends are usually paid out of company profits, so if a company pays out more than it earned then its dividend is usually at greater risk of being cut. Freeport-McMoRan is paying out just 7.7% of its profit after tax, which is comfortably low and leaves plenty of breathing room in the case of adverse events. Yet cash flows are even more important than profits for assessing a dividend, so we need to see if the company generated enough cash to pay its distribution. What's good is that dividends were well covered by free cash flow, with the company paying out 2.5% of its cash flow last year.

It's encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don't drop precipitously.

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. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. That's why it's comforting to see Freeport-McMoRan's earnings have been skyrocketing, up 56% per annum for the past five years. With earnings per share growing rapidly and the company sensibly reinvesting almost all of its profits within the business, Freeport-McMoRan looks like a promising growth company.

The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. Freeport-McMoRan's dividend payments per share have declined at 11% per year on average over the past 10 years, which is uninspiring. Freeport-McMoRan is a rare case where dividends have been decreasing at the same time as earnings per share have been improving. It's unusual to see, and could point to unstable conditions in the core business, or more rarely an intensified focus on reinvesting profits.

Final Takeaway

From a dividend perspective, should investors buy or avoid Freeport-McMoRan? Freeport-McMoRan has grown its earnings per share while simultaneously reinvesting in the business. Unfortunately it's cut the dividend at least once in the past 10 years, but the conservative payout ratio makes the current dividend look sustainable. There's a lot to like about Freeport-McMoRan, and we would prioritise taking a closer look at it.

With that in mind, a critical part of thorough stock research is being aware of any risks that stock currently faces. For example - Freeport-McMoRan has 1 warning sign we think you should be aware of.

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.

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