It looks like South State Corporation (NASDAQ:SSB) is about to go ex-dividend in the next three days. You can purchase shares before the 13th of August in order to receive the dividend, which the company will pay on the 21st of August.
South State's next dividend payment will be US$0.47 per share, and in the last 12 months, the company paid a total of US$1.88 per share. Last year's total dividend payments show that South State has a trailing yield of 3.4% on the current share price of $55.34. Dividends are an important source of income to many shareholders, but the health of the business is crucial to maintaining those dividends. That's why we should always check whether the dividend payments appear sustainable, and if the company is growing.
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. South State distributed an unsustainably high 166% 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?
Businesses with shrinking earnings are tricky from a dividend perspective. If earnings fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. South State's earnings per share have fallen at approximately 19% a year over the previous five years. Ultimately, when earnings per share decline, the size of the pie from which dividends can be paid, shrinks.
Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. In the past 10 years, South State has increased its dividend at approximately 11% a year on average. 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. South State is already paying out 166% of its profits, and with shrinking earnings we think it's unlikely that this dividend will grow quickly in the future.
The Bottom Line
From a dividend perspective, should investors buy or avoid South State? Earnings per share are in decline and South State is paying out what we feel is an uncomfortably 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. South State doesn't appear to have a lot going for it, and we're not inclined to take a risk on owning it for the dividend.
So if you're still interested in South State despite it's poor dividend qualities, you should be well informed on some of the risks facing this stock. Every company has risks, and we've spotted 4 warning signs for South State (of which 1 doesn't sit too well with us!) you should know about.
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.
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. 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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