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Is It Smart To Buy MSA Safety Incorporated (NYSE:MSA) 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 MSA Safety Incorporated (NYSE:MSA) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 3 days. You can purchase shares before the 11th of February in order to receive the dividend, which the company will pay on the 10th of March.

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. Last year's total dividend payments show that MSA Safety has a trailing yield of 1.2% on the current share price of $140.71. Dividends are an important source of income to many shareholders, but the health of the business is crucial to maintaining those dividends. So we need to check whether the dividend payments are covered, and if earnings are growing.

See our latest analysis for MSA Safety

Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned in profit, then the dividend could be unsustainable. MSA Safety paid out a comfortable 48% of its profit last year. 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. Thankfully its dividend payments took up just 49% of the free cash flow it generated, which is a comfortable payout ratio.

It's positive to see that MSA Safety'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.

NYSE:MSA Historical Dividend Yield, February 7th 2020

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. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. This is why it's a relief to see MSA Safety earnings per share are up 8.0% per annum 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.

Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. In the last ten years, MSA Safety has lifted its dividend by approximately 5.8% a year on average. It's encouraging to see the company lifting dividends while earnings are growing, suggesting at least some corporate interest in rewarding shareholders.

Final Takeaway

Is MSA Safety an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? 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. MSA Safety looks solid on this analysis overall, and we'd definitely consider investigating it more closely.

Wondering what the future holds for MSA Safety? See what the four analysts we track 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.

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.