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Three Things You Should Check Before Buying Cimarex Energy Co. (NYSE:XEC) For Its Dividend

Simply Wall St

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Could Cimarex Energy Co. (NYSE:XEC) be an attractive dividend share to own for the long haul? Investors are often drawn to strong companies with the idea of reinvesting the dividends. On the other hand, investors have been known to buy a stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

A 1.4% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests Cimarex Energy has some staying power. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Cimarex Energy for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Cimarex Energy!

NYSE:XEC Historical Dividend Yield, June 6th 2019

Payout ratios

Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. In the last year, Cimarex Energy paid out 11% of its profit as dividends. We'd say its dividends are thoroughly covered by earnings.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Last year, Cimarex Energy paid a dividend while reporting negative free cash flow. While there may be an explanation, we think this behaviour is generally not sustainable. 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.

We update our data on Cimarex Energy every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

Dividend Volatility

One of the major risks of relying on dividend income, is the potential for a company to struggle financially and cut its dividend. Not only is your income cut, but the value of your investment declines as well - nasty. Cimarex Energy has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. Its dividend payments have fallen by 20% or more on at least one occasion over the past ten years. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.24 in 2009, compared to US$0.80 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 13% per year over this time. The growth in dividends has not been linear, but the CAGR is a decent approximation of the rate of change over this time frame.

Cimarex Energy has grown distributions at a rapid rate despite cutting the dividend at least once in the past. Companies that cut once often cut again, but it might be worth considering if the business has turned a corner.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, it's even more important to see if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Why take the risk of a dividend getting cut, unless there's a good chance of bigger dividends in future? While there may be fluctuations in the past , Cimarex Energy's earnings per share have basically not grown from where they were five years ago. Flat earnings per share are acceptable for a time, but over the long term, the purchasing power of the company's dividends could be eroded by inflation. Growth has been hard to come by. On the plus side, the dividend payout ratio is low and dividends could grow faster than earnings, if the company decides to increase its payout ratio.

Conclusion

Dividend investors should always want to know if a) a company's dividends are affordable, b) if there is a track record of consistent payments, and c) if the dividend is capable of growing. Cimarex Energy has a low payout ratio, which we like, although it paid out virtually all of its generated cash. Unfortunately, earnings growth has also been mediocre, and the company has cut its dividend at least once in the past. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Cimarex Energy from a dividend perspective. It's not that we think it's a bad business; just that there are other companies that perform better on these criteria.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 19 Cimarex Energy analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company.

If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding above 3%.

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.