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Read This Before Buying FedEx Corporation (NYSE:FDX) For Its Dividend

Simply Wall St

Today we'll take a closer look at FedEx Corporation (NYSE:FDX) 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. If you are hoping to live on your dividends, it's important to be more stringent with your investments than the average punter. Regular readers know we like to apply the same approach to each dividend stock, and we hope you'll find our analysis useful.

While FedEx's 1.6% dividend yield is not the highest, we think its lengthy payment history is quite interesting. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 1.9% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying FedEx for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NYSE:FDX Historical Dividend Yield, December 3rd 2019

Payout ratios

Dividends are usually paid out of company earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. As a result, we should always investigate whether a company can afford its dividend, measured as a percentage of a company's net income after tax. Looking at the data, we can see that 151% of FedEx's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. A payout ratio above 100% is definitely an item of concern, unless there are some other circumstances that would justify it.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Unfortunately, while FedEx pays a dividend, it also reported negative free cash flow last year. While there may be a good reason for this, it's not ideal from a dividend perspective.

Is FedEx's Balance Sheet Risky?

As FedEx's dividend was not well covered by earnings, we need to check its balance sheet for signs of financial distress. A quick check of its financial situation can be done with two ratios: net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA measures total debt load relative to company earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the ability to pay interest on the debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). With net debt of 3.33 times its EBITDA, investors are starting to take on a meaningful amount of risk, should the business enter a downturn.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. Interest cover of 2.78 times its interest expense is starting to become a concern for FedEx, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well.

We update our data on FedEx every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, 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 FedEx's dividend payments. The dividend has been stable over the past 10 years, which is great. We think this could suggest some resilience to the business and its dividends. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.44 in 2009, compared to US$2.60 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 19% per year over this time.

It's rare to find a company that has grown its dividends rapidly over ten years and not had any notable cuts, but FedEx has done it, which we really like.

Dividend Growth Potential

Dividend payments have been consistent over the past few years, but we should always check if earnings per share (EPS) are growing, as this will help maintain the purchasing power of the dividend. FedEx's earnings per share have shrunk at 26% a year over the past five years. With this kind of significant decline, we always wonder what has changed in the business. Dividends are about stability, and FedEx's earnings per share, which support the dividend, have been anything but stable.

Conclusion

Dividend investors should always want to know if a) a company's dividends are affordable, b) if there is a track record of consistent payments, and c) if the dividend is capable of growing. FedEx paid out almost all of its cash flow and profit as dividends, leaving little to reinvest in the business. 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. Using these criteria, FedEx looks quite suboptimal from a dividend investment perspective.

Without at least some growth in earnings per share over time, the dividend will eventually come under pressure either from costs or inflation. Businesses can change though, and we think it would make sense to see what analysts are forecasting for the company.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 3%.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.