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Know This Before Buying Fluor Corporation (NYSE:FLR) For Its Dividend

Simply Wall St

Today we'll take a closer look at Fluor Corporation (NYSE:FLR) from a dividend investor's perspective. Owning a strong business and reinvesting the dividends is widely seen as an attractive way of growing your wealth. On the other hand, investors have been known to buy a stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

While Fluor's 2.3% dividend yield is not the highest, we think its lengthy payment history is quite interesting. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 2.1% of market capitalisation this year. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Fluor for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NYSE:FLR Historical Dividend Yield, November 19th 2019

Payout ratios

Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Although Fluor pays a dividend, it was loss-making during the past year. When a company recently reported a loss, we should investigate if its cash flows covered the dividend.

With a cash payout ratio of 311%, Fluor's dividend payments are poorly covered by cash flow. Paying out more than 100% of your free cash flow in dividends is generally not a long-term, sustainable state of affairs, so we think shareholders should watch this metric closely.

With a strong net cash balance, Fluor investors may not have much to worry about in the near term from a dividend perspective.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Fluor's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

Dividend Volatility

From the perspective of an income investor who wants to earn dividends for many years, there is not much point buying a stock if its dividend is regularly cut or is not reliable. Fluor has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. Its dividend payments have fallen by 20% or more on at least one occasion over the past ten years. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.50 in 2009, compared to US$0.40 last year. This works out to be a decline of approximately 2.2% per year over that time. Fluor's dividend hasn't shrunk linearly at 2.2% per annum, but the CAGR is a useful estimate of the historical rate of change.

We struggle to make a case for buying Fluor for its dividend, given that payments have shrunk over the past ten years.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, it's even more important to see if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Why take the risk of a dividend getting cut, unless there's a good chance of bigger dividends in future? Over the past five years, it looks as though Fluor's EPS have declined at around 56% a year. With this kind of significant decline, we always wonder what has changed in the business. Dividends are about stability, and Fluor's earnings per share, which support the dividend, have been anything but stable.

Conclusion

When we look at a dividend stock, we need to form a judgement on whether the dividend will grow, if the company is able to maintain it in a wide range of economic circumstances, and if the dividend payout is sustainable. It's a concern to see that the company paid a dividend despite reporting a loss, and the dividend was also not well covered by free cash flow. Earnings per share have been falling, and the company has cut its dividend at least once in the past. From a dividend perspective, this is a cause for concern. Using these criteria, Fluor looks quite suboptimal from a dividend investment perspective.

Given that earnings are not growing, the dividend does not look nearly so attractive. Very few businesses see earnings consistently shrink year after year in perpetuity though, and so it might be worth seeing what the 9 analysts we track are forecasting for the future.

If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding above 3%.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.