It looks like WestRock Company (NYSE:WRK) is about to go ex-dividend in the next 3 days. You will need to purchase shares before the 13th of February to receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 26th of February.
WestRock's next dividend payment will be US$0.47 per share, on the back of last year when the company paid a total of US$1.86 to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, WestRock stock has a trailing yield of around 4.5% on the current share price of $41.22. We love seeing companies pay a dividend, but it's also important to be sure that laying the golden eggs isn't going to kill our golden goose! So we need to check whether the dividend payments are covered, and if earnings are growing.
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. WestRock is paying out an acceptable 55% of its profit, a common payout level among most companies. 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 46% of its free cash flow in the past year.
It's positive to see that WestRock'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 that aren't growing their earnings can still be valuable, but it is even more important to assess the sustainability of the dividend if it looks like the company will struggle to grow. If earnings fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. With that in mind, we're not enthused to see that WestRock's earnings per share have remained effectively flat over the past five years. We'd take that over an earnings decline any day, but in the long run, the best dividend stocks all grow their earnings per share. Earnings per share growth has been slim, and the company is already paying out a majority of its earnings. While there is some room to both increase the payout ratio and reinvest in the business, generally the higher a payout ratio goes, the lower a company's prospects for future growth.
Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. WestRock has delivered an average of 25% per year annual increase in its dividend, based on the past ten years of dividend payments.
The Bottom Line
Should investors buy WestRock for the upcoming dividend? Earnings per share have been flat and WestRock's dividend payouts are within reasonable limits; without a sharp decline in earnings we feel that the dividend is likely somewhat sustainable. It might be worth researching if the company is reinvesting in growth projects that could grow earnings and dividends in the future, but for now we're not all that optimistic on its dividend prospects.
Wondering what the future holds for WestRock? See what the 13 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.
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