Excelsior Capital Limited (ASX:ECL) stock is about to trade ex-dividend in 4 days time. You will need to purchase shares before the 5th of March to receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 25th of March.
Excelsior Capital's upcoming dividend is AU$0.02 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of AU$0.06 per share to shareholders. Calculating the last year's worth of payments shows that Excelsior Capital has a trailing yield of 4.4% on the current share price of A$1.35. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. So we need to check whether the dividend payments are covered, and if earnings are growing.
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. Excelsior Capital paid out a comfortable 44% of its profit last year. 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. It paid out 14% of its free cash flow as dividends last year, which is conservatively low.
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 shrinking earnings are tricky from a dividend perspective. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. Excelsior Capital's earnings per share have fallen at approximately 5.8% a year over the previous five years. When earnings per share fall, the maximum amount of dividends that can be paid also falls.
Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. Excelsior Capital's dividend payments are effectively flat on where they were seven years ago. When earnings are declining yet the dividends are flat, typically the company is either paying out a higher portion of its earnings, or paying out of cash or debt on the balance sheet, neither of which is ideal.
The Bottom Line
Has Excelsior Capital got what it takes to maintain its dividend payments? Earnings per share are down meaningfully, although at least the company is paying out a low and conservative percentage of both its earnings and cash flow. It's definitely not great to see earnings falling, but at least there may be some buffer before the dividend needs to be cut. Overall we're not hugely bearish on the stock, but there are likely better dividend investments out there.
Want to learn more about Excelsior Capital's dividend performance? Check out this visualisation of its historical revenue and earnings growth.
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.
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