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Why You Should Leave Element Fleet Management Corp.'s (TSE:EFN) Upcoming Dividend On The Shelf

Simply Wall St

Element Fleet Management Corp. (TSE:EFN) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 3 days. If you purchase the stock on or after the 30th of March, you won't be eligible to receive this dividend, when it is paid on the 15th of April.

Element Fleet Management's next dividend payment will be CA$0.045 per share, on the back of last year when the company paid a total of CA$0.18 to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Element Fleet Management stock has a trailing yield of around 2.0% on the current share price of CA$9. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. So we need to investigate whether Element Fleet Management can afford its dividend, and if the dividend could grow.

View our latest analysis for Element Fleet Management

If a company pays out more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. Element Fleet Management distributed an unsustainably high 147% of its profit as dividends to shareholders last year. Without more sustainable payment behaviour, the dividend looks precarious.

When the dividend payout ratio is high, as it is in this case, the dividend is usually at greater risk of being cut in the future.

Click here to see the company's payout ratio, plus analyst estimates of its future dividends.

TSX:EFN Historical Dividend Yield March 26th 2020

Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?

When earnings decline, dividend companies become much harder to analyse and own safely. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. So we're not too excited that Element Fleet Management's earnings are down 4.7% a year over the past five years.

The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. In the last four years, Element Fleet Management has lifted its dividend by approximately 16% a year on average. The only way to pay higher dividends when earnings are shrinking is either to pay out a larger percentage of profits, spend cash from the balance sheet, or borrow the money. Element Fleet Management is already paying out 147% of its profits, and with shrinking earnings we think it's unlikely that this dividend will grow quickly in the future.

To Sum It Up

Is Element Fleet Management worth buying for its dividend? Not only are earnings per share shrinking, but Element Fleet Management is paying out a disconcertingly high percentage of its profit as dividends. Generally we think dividend investors should avoid businesses in this situation, as high payout ratios and declining earnings can lead to the dividend being cut. Element Fleet Management doesn't appear to have a lot going for it, and we're not inclined to take a risk on owning it for the dividend.

With that in mind though, if the poor dividend characteristics of Element Fleet Management don't faze you, it's worth being mindful of the risks involved with this business. For example, Element Fleet Management has 4 warning signs (and 1 which is significant) we think you should know about.

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.