Suncor Energy Inc. (TSE:SU) stock is about to trade ex-dividend in 4 days time. If you purchase the stock on or after the 3rd of September, you won't be eligible to receive this dividend, when it is paid on the 25th of September.
Suncor Energy's upcoming dividend is CA$0.42 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of CA$1.68 per share to shareholders. Looking at the last 12 months of distributions, Suncor Energy has a trailing yield of approximately 4.4% on its current stock price of CA$37.9. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. We need to see whether the dividend is covered by earnings and if it's growing.
Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned in profit, then the dividend could be unsustainable. Suncor Energy paid out a comfortable 43% 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. Fortunately, it paid out only 32% of its free cash flow in the past year.
It's positive to see that Suncor Energy's dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.
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. If earnings fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. With that in mind, we're encouraged by the steady growth at Suncor Energy, with earnings per share up 6.7% on average over the last five years. Management have been reinvested more than half of the company's earnings within the business, and the company has been able to grow earnings with this retained capital. We think this is generally an attractive combination, as dividends can grow through a combination of earnings growth and or a higher payout ratio over time.
Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. Since the start of our data, 10 years ago, Suncor Energy has lifted its dividend by approximately 24% a year on average. It's encouraging to see the company lifting dividends while earnings are growing, suggesting at least some corporate interest in rewarding shareholders.
To Sum It Up
Has Suncor Energy got what it takes to maintain its dividend payments? Earnings per share growth has been growing somewhat, and Suncor Energy is paying out less than half its earnings and cash flow as dividends. This is interesting for a few reasons, as it suggests management may be reinvesting heavily in the business, but it also provides room to increase the dividend in time. We would prefer to see earnings growing faster, but the best dividend stocks over the long term typically combine significant earnings per share growth with a low payout ratio, and Suncor Energy is halfway there. Overall we think this is an attractive combination and worthy of further research.
Wondering what the future holds for Suncor Energy? See what the 13 analysts we track 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.
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