Readers hoping to buy Orange S.A. (EPA:ORA) for its dividend will need to make their move shortly, as the stock is about to trade ex-dividend. If you purchase the stock on or after the 2nd of December, you won't be eligible to receive this dividend, when it is paid on the 4th of December.
Orange's next dividend payment will be €0.30 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed €0.70 to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Orange stock has a trailing yield of around 4.7% on the current share price of €15.01. We love seeing companies pay a dividend, but it's also important to be sure that laying the golden eggs isn't going to kill our golden goose! 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. Its dividend payout ratio is 86% of profit, which means the company is paying out a majority of its earnings. The relatively limited profit reinvestment could slow the rate of future earnings growth It could become a concern if earnings started to decline. 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. Over the past year it paid out 173% of its free cash flow as dividends, which is uncomfortably high. It's hard to consistently pay out more cash than you generate without either borrowing or using company cash, so we'd wonder how the company justifies this payout level.
While Orange's dividends were covered by the company's reported profits, cash is somewhat more important, so it's not great to see that the company didn't generate enough cash to pay its dividend. Cash is king, as they say, and were Orange to repeatedly pay dividends that aren't well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.
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. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. With that in mind, we're encouraged by the steady growth at Orange, with earnings per share up 2.3% on average over the last five years. Earnings have been growing somewhat, but we're concerned dividend payments consumed most of the company's cash flow over the past year.
Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. Orange has seen its dividend decline 7.9% per annum on average over the past ten years, which is not great to see. It's unusual to see earnings per share increasing at the same time as dividends per share have been in decline. We'd hope it's because the company is reinvesting heavily in its business, but it could also suggest business is lumpy.
The Bottom Line
From a dividend perspective, should investors buy or avoid Orange? Orange is paying out a reasonable percentage of its income and an uncomfortably high 173% of its cash flow as dividends. At least earnings per share have been growing steadily. With the way things are shaping up from a dividend perspective, we'd be inclined to steer clear of Orange.
Ever wonder what the future holds for Orange? See what the 23 analysts we track are forecasting, with this visualisation of its historical and future estimated earnings and cash flow
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.
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