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

Simply Wall St

It looks like Anthem, Inc. (NYSE:ANTM) is about to go ex-dividend in the next 4 days. If you purchase the stock on or after the 13th of March, you won't be eligible to receive this dividend, when it is paid on the 27th of March.

Anthem's upcoming dividend is US$0.95 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of US$3.80 per share to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Anthem has a trailing yield of 1.3% on the current stock price of $282.19. Dividends are an important source of income to many shareholders, but the health of the business is crucial to maintaining those dividends. As a result, readers should always check whether Anthem has been able to grow its dividends, or if the dividend might be cut.

View our latest analysis for Anthem

Dividends are usually paid out of company profits, so if a company pays out more than it earned then its dividend is usually at greater risk of being cut. Anthem is paying out just 17% of its profit after tax, which is comfortably low and leaves plenty of breathing room in the case of adverse events. 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. What's good is that dividends were well covered by free cash flow, with the company paying out 16% of its cash flow last year.

It's encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don't drop precipitously.

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

NYSE:ANTM Historical Dividend Yield, March 8th 2020

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 earnings fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. Fortunately for readers, Anthem's earnings per share have been growing at 15% 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.

The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. Anthem has delivered 16% dividend growth per year on average over the past nine years. Both per-share earnings and dividends have both been growing rapidly in recent times, which is great to see.

To Sum It Up

Should investors buy Anthem for the upcoming dividend? 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. Overall we think this is an attractive combination and worthy of further research.

With that in mind, a critical part of thorough stock research is being aware of any risks that stock currently faces. To help with this, we've discovered 1 warning sign for Anthem that you should be aware of before investing in their shares.

A common investment mistake is buying the first interesting stock you see. Here you can find a list of promising dividend stocks with a greater than 2% yield and an upcoming dividend.

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.