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Is It Smart To Buy Anthem, Inc. (NYSE:ANTM) Before It Goes Ex-Dividend?

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It looks like Anthem, Inc. (NYSE:ANTM) is about to go ex-dividend in the next four days. You will need to purchase shares before the 4th of December to receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 22nd of December.

Anthem's next dividend payment will be US$0.95 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed US$3.80 to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Anthem stock has a trailing yield of around 1.2% on the current share price of $312.8. If you buy this business for its dividend, you should have an idea of whether Anthem's dividend is reliable and sustainable. We need to see whether the dividend is covered by earnings and if it's growing.

See our latest analysis for Anthem

If a company pays out more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. Anthem has a low and conservative payout ratio of just 19% of its income after tax. 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. Luckily it paid out just 13% of its free cash flow last year.

It's positive to see that Anthem's dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.

Click here to see the company's payout ratio, plus analyst estimates of its future dividends.

historic-dividend
historic-dividend

Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?

Companies with consistently growing earnings per share generally make the best dividend stocks, as they usually find it easier to grow dividends per share. If business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. Fortunately for readers, Anthem's earnings per share have been growing at 16% a year for the past five years. Earnings per share are growing rapidly and the company is keeping more than half of its earnings within the business; an attractive combination which could suggest the company is focused on reinvesting to grow earnings further. This will make it easier to fund future growth efforts and we think this is an attractive combination - plus the dividend can always be increased later.

Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. In the last 10 years, Anthem has lifted its dividend by approximately 14% a year on average. Both per-share earnings and dividends have both been growing rapidly in recent times, which is great to see.

Final Takeaway

Is Anthem an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? Anthem has been growing earnings at a rapid rate, and has a conservatively low payout ratio, implying that it is reinvesting heavily in its business; a sterling combination. Anthem looks solid on this analysis overall, and we'd definitely consider investigating it more closely.

While it's tempting to invest in Anthem for the dividends alone, you should always be mindful of the risks involved. Our analysis shows 2 warning signs for Anthem and you should be aware of them before buying any shares.

We wouldn't recommend just buying the first dividend stock you see, though. Here's a list of interesting dividend stocks with a greater than 2% yield and an upcoming dividend.

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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team@simplywallst.com.