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Is It Smart To Buy MSA Safety Incorporated (NYSE:MSA) Before It Goes Ex-Dividend?

Simply Wall St

It looks like MSA Safety Incorporated (NYSE:MSA) is about to go ex-dividend in the next 4 days. Investors can purchase shares before the 19th of August in order to be eligible for this dividend, which will be paid on the 10th of September.

MSA Safety's next dividend payment will be US$0.42 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed US$1.68 to shareholders. Calculating the last year's worth of payments shows that MSA Safety has a trailing yield of 1.6% on the current share price of $102.32. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. So we need to investigate whether MSA Safety can afford its dividend, and if the dividend could grow.

Check out our latest analysis for MSA Safety

If a company pays out more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. Fortunately MSA Safety's payout ratio is modest, at just 49% of profit. That said, even highly profitable companies sometimes might not generate enough cash to pay the dividend, which is why we should always check if the dividend is covered by cash flow. Thankfully its dividend payments took up just 31% of the free cash flow it generated, which is a comfortable payout ratio.

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:MSA Historical Dividend Yield, August 14th 2019

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 decline and the company is forced to cut its dividend, investors could watch the value of their investment go up in smoke. With that in mind, we're encouraged by the steady growth at MSA Safety, with earnings per share up 6.6% on average over the last five years. Management have been reinvested more than half of the company's earnings within the business, and the company has been able to grow earnings with this retained capital. We think this is generally an attractive combination, as dividends can grow through a combination of earnings growth and or a higher payout ratio over time.

Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. MSA Safety has delivered 5.8% dividend growth per year on average over the past 10 years. It's encouraging to see the company lifting dividends while earnings are growing, suggesting at least some corporate interest in rewarding shareholders.

The Bottom Line

Is MSA Safety worth buying for its dividend? Earnings per share growth has been growing somewhat, and MSA Safety is paying out less than half its earnings and cash flow as dividends. This is interesting for a few reasons, as it suggests management may be reinvesting heavily in the business, but it also provides room to increase the dividend in time. We would prefer to see earnings growing faster, but the best dividend stocks over the long term typically combine significant earnings per share growth with a low payout ratio, and MSA Safety is halfway there. There's a lot to like about MSA Safety, and we would prioritise taking a closer look at it.

Curious what other investors think of MSA Safety? See what analysts are forecasting, with this visualisation of its historical and future estimated earnings and cash flow .

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.

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.