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South Jersey Industries, Inc. (NYSE:SJI) has announced that it will pay a dividend of US$0.30 per share on the 4th of October. This means the annual payment is 4.8% of the current stock price, which is above the average for the industry.
South Jersey Industries' Earnings Easily Cover the Distributions
Impressive dividend yields are good, but this doesn't matter much if the payments can't be sustained. Based on the last payment, earnings were actually smaller than the dividend, and the company was actually spending more cash than it was making. Paying out such a large dividend compared to earnings while also not generating free cash flows is a major warning sign for the sustainability of the dividend as these levels are certainly a bit high.
Over the next year, EPS is forecast to expand by 85.0%. If the dividend continues growing along recent trends, we estimate the payout ratio could reach 77%, which is on the higher side, but certainly still feasible.
South Jersey Industries Has A Solid Track Record
The company has been paying a dividend for a long time, and it has been quite stable which gives us confidence in the future dividend potential. The dividend has gone from US$0.73 in 2011 to the most recent annual payment of US$1.21. This means that it has been growing its distributions at 5.2% per annum over that time. The growth of the dividend has been pretty reliable, so we think this can offer investors some nice additional income in their portfolio.
Dividend Growth Is Doubtful
The company's investors will be pleased to have been receiving dividend income for some time. Let's not jump to conclusions as things might not be as good as they appear on the surface. It's not great to see that South Jersey Industries' earnings per share has fallen at approximately 9.3% per year over the past five years. A modest decline in earnings isn't great, and it makes it quite unlikely that the dividend will grow in the future unless that trend can be reversed. However, the next year is actually looking up, with earnings set to rise. We would just wait until it becomes a pattern before getting too excited.
The Dividend Could Prove To Be Unreliable
In summary, while it's good to see that the dividend hasn't been cut, we are a bit cautious about South Jersey Industries' payments, as there could be some issues with sustaining them into the future. Although they have been consistent in the past, we think the payments are a little high to be sustained. We don't think South Jersey Industries is a great stock to add to your portfolio if income is your focus.
It's important to note that companies having a consistent dividend policy will generate greater investor confidence than those having an erratic one. Meanwhile, despite the importance of dividend payments, they are not the only factors our readers should know when assessing a company. Just as an example, we've come across 4 warning signs for South Jersey Industries you should be aware of, and 1 of them makes us a bit uncomfortable. We have also put together a list of global stocks with a solid dividend.
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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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