It looks like Espey Mfg. & Electronics Corp. (NYSEMKT:ESP) is about to go ex-dividend in the next 4 days. You will need to purchase shares before the 2nd of October to receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 14th of October.
Espey Mfg. & Electronics's next dividend payment will be US$0.25 per share, on the back of last year when the company paid a total of US$1.00 to shareholders. Calculating the last year's worth of payments shows that Espey Mfg. & Electronics has a trailing yield of 5.2% on the current share price of $19.4. 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! We need to see whether the dividend is covered by earnings and if it's growing.
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. Espey Mfg. & Electronics paid out a disturbingly high 206% of its profit as dividends last year, which makes us concerned there's something we don't fully understand in the business. A useful secondary check can be to evaluate whether Espey Mfg. & Electronics generated enough free cash flow to afford its dividend. Fortunately, it paid out only 42% of its free cash flow in the past year.
It's good to see that while Espey Mfg. & Electronics's dividends were not covered by profits, at least they are affordable from a cash perspective. If executives were to continue paying more in dividends than the company reported in profits, we'd view this as a warning sign. Extraordinarily few companies are capable of persistently paying a dividend that is greater than their profits.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
When earnings decline, dividend companies become much harder to analyse and own safely. If earnings fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. Readers will understand then, why we're concerned to see Espey Mfg. & Electronics's earnings per share have dropped 19% a year over the past five years. When earnings per share fall, the maximum amount of dividends that can be paid also falls.
Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. Espey Mfg. & Electronics's dividend payments per share have declined at 6.2% per year on average over the past 10 years, which is uninspiring. While it's not great that earnings and dividends per share have fallen in recent years, we're encouraged by the fact that management has trimmed the dividend rather than risk over-committing the company in a risky attempt to maintain yields to shareholders.
To Sum It Up
Is Espey Mfg. & Electronics an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? It's never great to see earnings per share declining, especially when a company is paying out 206% of its profit as dividends, which we feel is uncomfortably high. However, the cash payout ratio was much lower - good news from a dividend perspective - which makes us wonder why there is such a mis-match between income and cashflow. Bottom line: Espey Mfg. & Electronics has some unfortunate characteristics that we think could lead to sub-optimal outcomes for dividend investors.
With that in mind though, if the poor dividend characteristics of Espey Mfg. & Electronics don't faze you, it's worth being mindful of the risks involved with this business. To that end, you should learn about the 4 warning signs we've spotted with Espey Mfg. & Electronics (including 1 which is a bit unpleasant).
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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