SATS Ltd. (SGX:S58) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 4 days. This means that investors who purchase shares on or after the 29th of July will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 8th of August.
SATS's upcoming dividend is S$0.13 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of S$0.19 per share to shareholders. Calculating the last year's worth of payments shows that SATS has a trailing yield of 3.9% on the current share price of SGD4.93. If you buy this business for its dividend, you should have an idea of whether SATS's dividend is reliable and sustainable. So we need to check whether the dividend payments are covered, and if earnings are growing.
If a company pays out more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. It paid out 88% of its earnings as dividends last year, which is not unreasonable, but limits reinvestment in the business and leaves the dividend vulnerable to a business downturn. It could become a concern if earnings started to decline. 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 company paid out 98% of its free cash flow over the last year, which we think is outside the ideal range for most businesses. Cash flows are usually much more volatile than earnings, so this could be a temporary effect - but we'd generally want look more closely here.
While SATS's dividends were covered by the company's reported profits, cash is somewhat more important, so it's not great to see that the company didn't generate enough cash to pay its dividend. Cash is king, as they say, and were SATS to repeatedly pay dividends that aren't well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Businesses with strong growth prospects usually make the best dividend payers, because it's easier to grow dividends when earnings per share are improving. If earnings decline and the company is forced to cut its dividend, investors could watch the value of their investment go up in smoke. This is why it's a relief to see SATS earnings per share are up 5.9% per annum over the last five years. Earnings have been growing at a steady rate, but we're concerned dividend payments consumed most of the company's cash flow over the past year.
The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. In the last 10 years, SATS has lifted its dividend by approximately 5.6% a year on average. We're glad to see dividends rising alongside earnings over a number of years, which may be a sign the company intends to share the growth with shareholders.
The Bottom Line
Is SATS worth buying for its dividend? SATS is paying out a reasonable percentage of its income and an uncomfortably high 98% of its cash flow as dividends. At least earnings per share have been growing steadily. Overall it doesn't look like the most suitable dividend stock for a long-term buy and hold investor.
Curious what other investors think of SATS? See what analysts are forecasting, with this visualisation of its historical and future estimated earnings and cash flow .
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.
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