It looks like Scholastic Corporation (NASDAQ:SCHL) is about to go ex-dividend in the next 4 days. You can purchase shares before the 29th of August in order to receive the dividend, which the company will pay on the 16th of September.
Scholastic's next dividend payment will be US$0.15 per share, and in the last 12 months, the company paid a total of US$0.60 per share. Last year's total dividend payments show that Scholastic has a trailing yield of 1.8% on the current share price of $33.4. 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! So we need to check whether the dividend payments are covered, and if earnings are growing.
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. Scholastic distributed an unsustainably high 136% 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 99% of its free cash flow in the form of dividends last year, which is outside the comfort zone for most businesses. Companies usually need cash more than they need earnings - expenses don't pay themselves - so it's not great to see it paying out so much of its cash flow.
Cash is slightly more important than profit from a dividend perspective, but given Scholastic's payments were not well covered by either earnings or cash flow, we are concerned about the sustainability of this dividend.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Companies that aren't growing their earnings can still be valuable, but it is even more important to assess the sustainability of the dividend if it looks like the company will struggle to grow. If business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. It's not encouraging to see that Scholastic's earnings are effectively flat over the past five years. Better than seeing them fall off a cliff, for sure, but the best dividend stocks grow their earnings meaningfully over the long run. With limited earnings growth and paying out a concerningly high percentage of its earnings, the prospects of future dividend growth don't look so bright here.
Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. Scholastic has delivered an average of 7.2% per year annual increase in its dividend, based on the past 10 years of dividend payments.
To Sum It Up
Is Scholastic worth buying for its dividend? Scholastic is paying out an uncomfortably high percentage of both earnings and cash flow as dividends, at the same time as its earnings per share are struggling to grow. Bottom line: Scholastic has some unfortunate characteristics that we think could lead to sub-optimal outcomes for dividend investors.
Keen to explore more data on Scholastic's financial performance? Check out our visualisation of its historical revenue and earnings growth.
If you're in the market for dividend stocks, we recommend checking our list of top dividend stocks with a greater than 2% yield and an upcoming dividend.
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