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Be Sure To Check Out Ascential plc (LON:ASCL) 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 Ascential plc (LON:ASCL) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 3 days. If you purchase the stock on or after the 29th of August, you won't be eligible to receive this dividend, when it is paid on the 27th of September.

Ascential's next dividend payment will be UK£0.018 per share, and in the last 12 months, the company paid a total of UK£0.058 per share. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Ascential has a trailing yield of 1.5% on the current stock price of £3.79. 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 investigate whether Ascential can afford its dividend, and if the dividend could grow.

View our latest analysis for Ascential

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. Its dividend payout ratio is 90% of profit, which means the company is paying out a majority of its earnings. The relatively limited profit reinvestment could slow the rate of future earnings growth It could become a concern if earnings started to decline. A useful secondary check can be to evaluate whether Ascential generated enough free cash flow to afford its dividend. Thankfully its dividend payments took up just 44% 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.

LSE:ASCL Historical Dividend Yield, August 25th 2019

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. If business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. It's encouraging to see Ascential has grown its earnings rapidly, up 87% a year for the past five years. Earnings per share are growing at a rapid rate, yet the company is paying out more than three-quarters of its earnings.

Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. Ascential has delivered 25% dividend growth per year on average over the past 3 years. Both per-share earnings and dividends have both been growing rapidly in recent times, which is great to see.

The Bottom Line

Is Ascential an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? We like Ascential's growing earnings per share and the fact that - while its payout ratio is around average - it paid out a lower percentage of its cash flow. Overall we think this is an attractive combination and worthy of further research.

Ever wonder what the future holds for Ascential? See what the nine analysts we track are forecasting, with this visualisation of its historical and future estimated earnings and cash flow

A common investment mistake is buying the first interesting stock you see. Here you can find a list of promising 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.