We Wouldn't Be Too Quick To Buy Scorpio Bulkers Inc. (NYSE:SALT) Before It Goes Ex-Dividend

·4 min read

Regular readers will know that we love our dividends at Simply Wall St, which is why it's exciting to see Scorpio Bulkers Inc. (NYSE:SALT) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 3 days. Ex-dividend means that investors that purchase the stock on or after the 11th of February will not receive this dividend, which will be paid on the 12th of March.

Scorpio Bulkers's upcoming dividend is US$0.05 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of US$0.20 per share to shareholders. Looking at the last 12 months of distributions, Scorpio Bulkers has a trailing yield of approximately 1.0% on its current stock price of $20.03. 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! As a result, readers should always check whether Scorpio Bulkers has been able to grow its dividends, or if the dividend might be cut.

View our latest analysis for Scorpio Bulkers

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. Scorpio Bulkers reported a loss last year, so it's not great to see that it has continued paying a dividend. Given that the company reported a loss last year, we now need to see if it generated enough free cash flow to fund the dividend. If Scorpio Bulkers didn't generate enough cash to pay the dividend, then it must have either paid from cash in the bank or by borrowing money, neither of which is sustainable in the long term. Scorpio Bulkers paid a dividend despite reporting negative free cash flow last year. That's typically a bad combination and - if this were more than a one-off - not sustainable.

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

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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 fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. Scorpio Bulkers reported a loss last year, but at least the general trend suggests its income has been improving over the past five years. Even so, an unprofitable company whose business does not quickly recover is usually not a good candidate for dividend investors.

Scorpio Bulkers also issued more than 5% of its market cap in new stock during the past year, which we feel is likely to hurt its dividend prospects in the long run. Trying to grow the dividend while issuing large amounts of new shares reminds us of the ancient Greek tale of Sisyphus - perpetually pushing a boulder uphill.

The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. Scorpio Bulkers's dividend payments per share have declined at 37% per year on average over the past three years, which is uninspiring.

Get our latest analysis on Scorpio Bulkers's balance sheet health here.

Final Takeaway

From a dividend perspective, should investors buy or avoid Scorpio Bulkers? It's hard to get used to Scorpio Bulkers paying a dividend despite reporting a loss over the past year. Worse, the dividend was not well covered by cash flow. Overall it doesn't look like the most suitable dividend stock for a long-term buy and hold investor.

Having said that, if you're looking at this stock without much concern for the dividend, you should still be familiar of the risks involved with Scorpio Bulkers. Be aware that Scorpio Bulkers is showing 2 warning signs in our investment analysis, and 1 of those can't be ignored...

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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