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Should McKesson Corporation (NYSE:MCK) Be Part Of Your Dividend Portfolio?

Simply Wall St

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Is McKesson Corporation (NYSE:MCK) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. If you are hoping to live on the income from dividends, it's important to be a lot more stringent with your investments than the average punter.

A slim 1.2% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, McKesson could have potential. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 6.2% of market capitalisation this year. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying McKesson for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on McKesson!

NYSE:MCK Historical Dividend Yield, July 1st 2019

Payout ratios

Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Looking at the data, we can see that 897% of McKesson's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, from the perspective of an investor who hopes to own the company for many years, a payout ratio of above 100% is definitely a concern.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. McKesson paid out 8.4% of its free cash flow as dividends last year, which is conservative and suggests the dividend is sustainable. It's good to see that while McKesson's dividends were not covered by profits, at least they are affordable from a cash perspective. If executives were to continue paying more in dividends than the company reported in profits, we'd view this as a warning sign. Extraordinarily few companies are capable of persistently paying a dividend that is greater than their profits.

Consider getting our latest analysis on McKesson's financial position here.

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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of McKesson's dividend payments. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.48 in 2009, compared to US$1.56 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 13% a year over that time.

With rapid dividend growth and no notable cuts to the dividend over a lengthy period of time, we think this company has a lot going for it.

Dividend Growth Potential

Examining whether the dividend is affordable and stable is important. However, it's also important to assess if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Growing EPS can help maintain or increase the purchasing power of the dividend over the long run. It's not great to see that McKesson's have fallen at approximately 51% over the past five years. Declining earnings per share over a number of years is not a great sign for the dividend investor. Without some improvement, this does not bode well for the long term value of a company's dividend.

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. We're not keen on the fact that McKesson paid out such a high percentage of its income, although its cashflow is in better shape. It's not great to see earnings per share shrinking. The dividends have been relatively consistent, but we wonder for how much longer this will be true. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about McKesson from a dividend perspective. It's not that we think it's a bad business; just that there are other companies that perform better on these criteria.

Without at least some growth in earnings per share over time, the dividend will eventually come under pressure either from costs or inflation. Very few businesses see earnings consistently shrink year after year in perpetuity though, and so it might be worth seeing what the 13 analysts we track are forecasting for the future.

We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 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.