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Is It Smart To Buy Robert Walters plc (LON:RWA) Before It Goes Ex-Dividend?

Simply Wall St

It looks like Robert Walters plc (LON:RWA) is about to go ex-dividend in the next 3 days. If you purchase the stock on or after the 5th of September, you won't be eligible to receive this dividend, when it is paid on the 18th of October.

Robert Walters's next dividend payment will be UK£0.045 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed UK£0.15 to shareholders. Calculating the last year's worth of payments shows that Robert Walters has a trailing yield of 2.9% on the current share price of £5.08. 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.

Check out our latest analysis for Robert Walters

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. Robert Walters paid out a comfortable 30% of its profit last year. Yet cash flows are even more important than profits for assessing a dividend, so we need to see if the company generated enough cash to pay its distribution. The good news is it paid out just 16% of its free cash flow in the 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.

LSE:RWA Historical Dividend Yield, September 1st 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. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. That's why it's comforting to see Robert Walters's earnings have been skyrocketing, up 43% per annum for the past five years. Robert Walters is paying out less than half its earnings and cash flow, while simultaneously growing earnings per share at a rapid clip. Companies with growing earnings and low payout ratios are often the best long-term dividend stocks, as the company can both grow its earnings and increase the percentage of earnings that it pays out, essentially multiplying the dividend.

Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. In the past 10 years, Robert Walters has increased its dividend at approximately 12% 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

Should investors buy Robert Walters for the upcoming dividend? We love that Robert Walters 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. There's a lot to like about Robert Walters, and we would prioritise taking a closer look at it.

Curious what other investors think of Robert Walters? 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.