Regular readers will know that we love our dividends at Simply Wall St, which is why it's exciting to see Automatic Data Processing, Inc. (NASDAQ:ADP) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 4 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 important as the process of settlement involves two full business days. So if you miss that date, you would not show up on the company's books on the record date. This means that investors who purchase Automatic Data Processing's shares on or after the 9th of March will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 1st of April.
The company's next dividend payment will be US$1.25 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed US$5.00 to shareholders. Looking at the last 12 months of distributions, Automatic Data Processing has a trailing yield of approximately 2.2% on its current stock price of $224.75. 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.
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. Automatic Data Processing is paying out an acceptable 58% of its profit, a common payout level among most companies. Yet cash flow is typically more important than profit for assessing dividend sustainability, so we should always check if the company generated enough cash to afford its dividend. It paid out more than half (59%) of its free cash flow in the past year, which is within an average range for most companies.
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.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Businesses with strong growth prospects usually make the best dividend payers, because it's easier to grow dividends when earnings per share are improving. If earnings decline and the company is forced to cut its dividend, investors could watch the value of their investment go up in smoke. Fortunately for readers, Automatic Data Processing's earnings per share have been growing at 14% a year for the past five years. Automatic Data Processing is paying out a bit over half its earnings, which suggests the company is striking a balance between reinvesting in growth, and paying dividends. Given the quick rate of earnings per share growth and current level of payout, there may be a chance of further dividend increases in the future.
Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. Automatic Data Processing has delivered an average of 12% per year annual increase in its dividend, based on the past 10 years of dividend payments. It's great to see earnings per share growing rapidly over several years, and dividends per share growing right along with it.
To Sum It Up
Should investors buy Automatic Data Processing for the upcoming dividend? Higher earnings per share generally lead to higher dividends from dividend-paying stocks over the long run. However, we'd also note that Automatic Data Processing is paying out more than half of its earnings and cash flow as profits, which could limit the dividend growth if earnings growth slows. All things considered, we are not particularly enthused about Automatic Data Processing from a dividend perspective.
So while Automatic Data Processing looks good from a dividend perspective, it's always worthwhile being up to date with the risks involved in this stock. Case in point: We've spotted 1 warning sign for Automatic Data Processing you should be aware of.
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.
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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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