Big River Industries Limited (ASX:BRI) stock is about to trade ex-dividend in 4 days time. Ex-dividend means that investors that purchase the stock on or after the 4th of March will not receive this dividend, which will be paid on the 3rd of April.
Big River Industries's next dividend payment will be AU$0.024 per share, and in the last 12 months, the company paid a total of AU$0.046 per share. Calculating the last year's worth of payments shows that Big River Industries has a trailing yield of 2.8% on the current share price of A$1.64. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. As a result, readers should always check whether Big River Industries has been able to grow its dividends, or if the dividend might be cut.
Dividends are typically paid out of company income, so if a company pays out more than it earned, its dividend is usually at a higher risk of being cut. Big River Industries paid out 59% of its earnings to investors last year, a normal payout level for most businesses. 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. Over the past year it paid out 139% of its free cash flow as dividends, which is uncomfortably high. We're curious about why the company paid out more cash than it generated last year, since this can be one of the early signs that a dividend may be unsustainable.
Big River Industries paid out less in dividends than it reported in profits, but unfortunately it didn't generate enough cash to cover the dividend. Were this to happen repeatedly, this would be a risk to Big River Industries's ability to maintain its dividend.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
When earnings decline, dividend companies become much harder to analyse and own safely. If earnings decline and the company is forced to cut its dividend, investors could watch the value of their investment go up in smoke. Big River Industries's earnings have collapsed faster than Wile E Coyote's schemes to trap the Road Runner; down a tremendous 38% a year over the past five years.
We'd also point out that Big River Industries issued a meaningful number of new shares in the past year. It's hard to grow dividends per share when a company keeps creating new shares.
The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. In the past two years, Big River Industries has increased its dividend at approximately 15% a year on average. Growing the dividend payout ratio while earnings are declining can deliver nice returns for a while, but it's always worth checking for when the company can't increase the payout ratio any more - because then the music stops.
The Bottom Line
Has Big River Industries got what it takes to maintain its dividend payments? Big River Industries had an average payout ratio, but its free cash flow was lower and earnings per share have been declining. With the way things are shaping up from a dividend perspective, we'd be inclined to steer clear of Big River Industries.
Curious about whether Big River Industries has been able to consistently generate growth? Here's a chart of its historical revenue and earnings growth.
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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