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We Wouldn't Be Too Quick To Buy Outfront Media Inc. (NYSE:OUT) Before It Goes Ex-Dividend

Simply Wall St

Outfront Media Inc. (NYSE:OUT) stock is about to trade ex-dividend in 4 days time. Ex-dividend means that investors that purchase the stock on or after the 5th of September will not receive this dividend, which will be paid on the 27th of September.

Outfront Media's next dividend payment will be US$0.36 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed US$1.44 to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Outfront Media has a trailing yield of 5.2% on the current stock price of $27.48. If you buy this business for its dividend, you should have an idea of whether Outfront Media's dividend is reliable and sustainable. We need to see whether the dividend is covered by earnings and if it's growing.

See our latest analysis for Outfront Media

Dividends are typically paid out of company income, so if a company pays out more than it earned, its dividend is usually at a higher risk of being cut. Outfront Media paid out more than half (65%) of its earnings last year, which is a regular payout ratio for most companies. While Outfront Media seems to be paying out a very high percentage of its income, REITs have different dividend payment behaviour and so, while we don't think this is great, we also don't think it is unusual. 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. Outfront Media paid out more free cash flow than it generated - 151%, to be precise - last year, which we think is concerningly high. We're curious about why the company paid out more cash than it generated last year, since this can be one of the early signs that a dividend may be unsustainable.

Outfront Media paid out less in dividends than it reported in profits, but unfortunately it didn't generate enough cash to cover the dividend. Cash is king, as they say, and were Outfront Media to repeatedly pay dividends that aren't well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.

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

NYSE:OUT Historical Dividend Yield, August 31st 2019

Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?

Companies with falling earnings are riskier for dividend shareholders. If earnings decline and the company is forced to cut its dividend, investors could watch the value of their investment go up in smoke. So we're not too excited that Outfront Media's earnings are down 2.2% 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. Outfront Media has seen its dividend decline 0.5% per annum on average over the past 5 years, which is not great to see.

Final Takeaway

From a dividend perspective, should investors buy or avoid Outfront Media? It's definitely not great to see earnings per share shrinking. The company paid out an acceptable percentage of its income, but an uncomfortably high percentage of its cash flow over the past year. It's not an attractive combination from a dividend perspective, and we're inclined to pass on this one for the time being.

Curious what other investors think of Outfront Media? 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.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.