Virtus Health Limited (ASX:VRT) stock is about to trade ex-dividend in 4 days time. You will need to purchase shares before the 3rd of October to receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 25th of October.
Virtus Health's next dividend payment will be AU$0.1 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed AU$0.2 to shareholders. Last year's total dividend payments show that Virtus Health has a trailing yield of 5.5% on the current share price of A$4.35. 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 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. Virtus Health paid out more than half (68%) of its earnings last year, which is a regular payout ratio for most companies. That said, even highly profitable companies sometimes might not generate enough cash to pay the dividend, which is why we should always check if the dividend is covered by cash flow. It paid out 81% of its free cash flow as dividends, which is within usual limits but will limit the company's ability to lift the dividend if there's no growth.
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.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Stocks with flat earnings can still be attractive dividend payers, but it is important to be more conservative with your approach and demand a greater margin for safety when it comes to dividend sustainability. If business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. With that in mind, we're not enthused to see that Virtus Health's earnings per share have remained effectively flat over the past five years. Better than seeing them fall off a cliff, for sure, but the best dividend stocks grow their earnings meaningfully over the long run.
Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. It looks like the Virtus Health dividends are largely the same as they were six years ago.
Has Virtus Health got what it takes to maintain its dividend payments? Virtus Health has been unable to generate earnings growth, but at least its dividend looks sustainable, with its profit and cashflow payout ratios within reasonable limits. It's not an attractive combination from a dividend perspective, and we're inclined to pass on this one for the time being.
Ever wonder what the future holds for Virtus Health? See what the three analysts we track 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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