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

Simply Wall St

Regular readers will know that we love our dividends at Simply Wall St, which is why it's exciting to see MAXIMUS, Inc. (NYSE:MMS) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 4 days. If you purchase the stock on or after the 14th of August, you won't be eligible to receive this dividend, when it is paid on the 30th of August.

MAXIMUS's next dividend payment will be US$0.25 per share, on the back of last year when the company paid a total of US$1.00 to shareholders. Looking at the last 12 months of distributions, MAXIMUS has a trailing yield of approximately 1.3% on its current stock price of $79.51. 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.

Check out our latest analysis for MAXIMUS

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. MAXIMUS has a low and conservative payout ratio of just 17% of its income after tax. A useful secondary check can be to evaluate whether MAXIMUS generated enough free cash flow to afford its dividend. It paid out 13% of its free cash flow as dividends last year, which is conservatively low.

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:MMS Historical Dividend Yield, August 9th 2019

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. If earnings decline and the company is forced to cut its dividend, investors could watch the value of their investment go up in smoke. Fortunately for readers, MAXIMUS's earnings per share have been growing at 15% a year for the past five years. Earnings per share have been growing rapidly and the company is retaining a majority of its earnings within the business. 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. Since the start of our data, 10 years ago, MAXIMUS has lifted its dividend by approximately 26% a year on average. It's exciting to see that both earnings and dividends per share have grown rapidly over the past few years.

To Sum It Up

Is MAXIMUS worth buying for its dividend? We love that MAXIMUS is growing earnings per share while simultaneously paying out a low percentage of both its earnings and cash flow. These characteristics suggest the company is reinvesting in growing its business, while the conservative payout ratio also implies a reduced risk of the dividend being cut in the future. It's a promising combination that should mark this company worthy of closer attention.

Ever wonder what the future holds for MAXIMUS? See what the seven 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.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.