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Is It Smart To Buy Oil Search Limited (ASX:OSH) Before It Goes Ex-Dividend?

Simply Wall St

Readers hoping to buy Oil Search Limited (ASX:OSH) for its dividend will need to make their move shortly, as the stock is about to trade ex-dividend. You will need to purchase shares before the 3rd of September to receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 24th of September.

Oil Search's next dividend payment will be US$0.05 per share, on the back of last year when the company paid a total of US$0.14 to shareholders. Calculating the last year's worth of payments shows that Oil Search has a trailing yield of 3.1% on the current share price of A$6.49. If you buy this business for its dividend, you should have an idea of whether Oil Search's dividend is reliable and sustainable. That's why we should always check whether the dividend payments appear sustainable, and if the company is growing.

Check out our latest analysis for Oil Search

Dividends are typically paid out of company income, so if a company pays out more than it earned, its dividend is usually at a higher risk of being cut. Oil Search paid out a comfortable 49% of its profit last year. 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. Luckily it paid out just 25% of its free 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.

ASX:OSH Historical Dividend Yield, August 29th 2019

Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?

Stocks in companies that generate sustainable earnings growth often make the best dividend prospects, as it is easier to lift the dividend when earnings are rising. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. Fortunately for readers, Oil Search's earnings per share have been growing at 13% a year for the past five years. The company has managed to grow earnings at a rapid rate, while reinvesting most of the profits within the business. Fast-growing businesses that are reinvesting heavily are enticing from a dividend perspective, especially since they can often increase the payout ratio later.

Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. Oil Search has delivered an average of 5.4% per year annual increase in its dividend, based on the past 10 years of dividend payments. It's good to see both earnings and the dividend have improved - although the former has been rising much quicker than the latter, possibly due to the company reinvesting more of its profits in growth.

Final Takeaway

Has Oil Search got what it takes to maintain its dividend payments? It's great that Oil Search is growing earnings per share while simultaneously paying out a low percentage of both its earnings and cash flow. It's disappointing to see the dividend has been cut at least once in the past, but as things stand now, the low payout ratio suggests a conservative approach to dividends, which we like. Oil Search looks solid on this analysis overall, and we'd definitely consider investigating it more closely.

Wondering what the future holds for Oil Search? See what the 13 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.