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Regular readers will know that we love our dividends at Simply Wall St, which is why it's exciting to see STERIS plc (NYSE:STE) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next four days. Ex-dividend means that investors that purchase the stock on or after the 23rd of November will not receive this dividend, which will be paid on the 18th of December.
STERIS's upcoming dividend is US$0.40 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of US$1.60 per share to shareholders. Looking at the last 12 months of distributions, STERIS has a trailing yield of approximately 0.8% on its current stock price of $195.21. 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 investigate whether STERIS can afford its dividend, and if the dividend could grow.
Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned in profit, then the dividend could be unsustainable. That's why it's good to see STERIS paying out a modest 30% of its earnings. 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 32% of its free cash flow in the past year.
It's positive to see that STERIS'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 with consistently growing earnings per share generally make the best dividend stocks, as they usually find it easier to grow dividends per share. If earnings decline and the company is forced to cut its dividend, investors could watch the value of their investment go up in smoke. For this reason, we're glad to see STERIS's earnings per share have risen 17% per annum over the last five years. The company has managed to grow earnings at a rapid rate, while reinvesting most of the profits within the business. This will make it easier to fund future growth efforts and we think this is an attractive combination - plus the dividend can always be increased later.
Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. In the past 10 years, STERIS has increased its dividend at approximately 14% a year on average. It's exciting to see that both earnings and dividends per share have grown rapidly over the past few years.
To Sum It Up
From a dividend perspective, should investors buy or avoid STERIS? STERIS has been growing earnings at a rapid rate, and has a conservatively low payout ratio, implying that it is reinvesting heavily in its business; a sterling combination. It's a promising combination that should mark this company worthy of closer attention.
With that in mind, a critical part of thorough stock research is being aware of any risks that stock currently faces. Case in point: We've spotted 1 warning sign for STERIS you should be aware of.
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.
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. 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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