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Readers hoping to buy Airtel Africa Plc (LON:AAF) for its dividend will need to make their move shortly, as the stock is about to trade ex-dividend. The ex-dividend date is one business day before the record date, which is the cut-off date for shareholders to be present on the company's books to be eligible for a dividend payment. The ex-dividend date is important because any transaction on a stock needs to have been settled before the record date in order to be eligible for a dividend. This means that investors who purchase Airtel Africa's shares on or after the 11th of November will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 10th of December.
The company's upcoming dividend is US$0.02 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of US$0.045 per share to shareholders. Last year's total dividend payments show that Airtel Africa has a trailing yield of 2.8% on the current share price of £1.212. If you buy this business for its dividend, you should have an idea of whether Airtel Africa's dividend is reliable and sustainable. We need to see whether the dividend is covered by earnings and if it's growing.
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. Airtel Africa paid out a comfortable 33% 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 15% 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.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Stocks in companies that generate sustainable earnings growth often make the best dividend prospects, as it is easier to lift the dividend when earnings are rising. If earnings fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. That's why it's comforting to see Airtel Africa's earnings have been skyrocketing, up 71% per annum for the past five years. Airtel Africa is paying out less than half its earnings and cash flow, while simultaneously growing earnings per share at a rapid clip. This is a very favourable combination that can often lead to the dividend multiplying over the long term, if earnings grow and the company pays out a higher percentage of its earnings.
Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. Airtel Africa has seen its dividend decline 13% per annum on average over the past two years, which is not great to see. Airtel Africa is a rare case where dividends have been decreasing at the same time as earnings per share have been improving. It's unusual to see, and could point to unstable conditions in the core business, or more rarely an intensified focus on reinvesting profits.
From a dividend perspective, should investors buy or avoid Airtel Africa? Airtel Africa has grown its earnings per share while simultaneously reinvesting in the business. Unfortunately it's cut the dividend at least once in the past two years, but the conservative payout ratio makes the current dividend look sustainable. Overall we think this is an attractive combination and worthy of further research.
With that in mind, a critical part of thorough stock research is being aware of any risks that stock currently faces. For example - Airtel Africa has 3 warning signs we think you should be aware of.
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.
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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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