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Be Sure To Check Out Kansas City Southern (NYSE:KSU) Before It Goes Ex-Dividend

Simply Wall St

Kansas City Southern (NYSE:KSU) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 4 days. You can purchase shares before the 6th of March in order to receive the dividend, which the company will pay on the 8th of April.

Kansas City Southern's upcoming dividend is US$0.40 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of US$1.60 per share to shareholders. Looking at the last 12 months of distributions, Kansas City Southern has a trailing yield of approximately 1.1% on its current stock price of $150.68. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. That's why we should always check whether the dividend payments appear sustainable, and if the company is growing.

See our latest analysis for Kansas City Southern

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. Kansas City Southern paid out a comfortable 27% 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. Fortunately, it paid out only 30% of its free cash flow in the past 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.

NYSE:KSU Historical Dividend Yield, March 1st 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 Kansas City Southern earnings per share are up 3.5% per annum over the last five years. Recent growth has not been impressive. Yet there are several ways to grow the dividend, and one of them is simply that the company may choose to pay out more of its earnings as dividends.

Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. Kansas City Southern has delivered 9.4% dividend growth per year on average over the past eight years. It's encouraging to see the company lifting dividends while earnings are growing, suggesting at least some corporate interest in rewarding shareholders.

The Bottom Line

Is Kansas City Southern an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? Earnings per share have been growing moderately, and Kansas City Southern is paying out less than half its earnings and cash flow as dividends, which is an attractive combination as it suggests the company is investing in growth. It might be nice to see earnings growing faster, but Kansas City Southern is being conservative with its dividend payouts and could still perform reasonably over the long run. Overall we think this is an attractive combination and worthy of further research.

Curious what other investors think of Kansas City Southern? See what analysts 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.

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.