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We Wouldn't Be Too Quick To Buy Smiths Group plc (LON:SMIN) Before It Goes Ex-Dividend

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Simply Wall St
·4 min read
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Some investors rely on dividends for growing their wealth, and if you're one of those dividend sleuths, you might be intrigued to know that Smiths Group plc (LON:SMIN) is about to go ex-dividend in just 3 days. Investors can purchase shares before the 8th of April in order to be eligible for this dividend, which will be paid on the 14th of May.

Smiths Group's next dividend payment will be UK£0.12 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed UK£0.35 to shareholders. Looking at the last 12 months of distributions, Smiths Group has a trailing yield of approximately 2.2% on its current stock price of £15.665. 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! That's why we should always check whether the dividend payments appear sustainable, and if the company is growing.

View our latest analysis for Smiths Group

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. Smiths Group paid out 189% of profit in the past year, which we think is typically not sustainable unless there are mitigating characteristics such as unusually strong cash flow or a large cash balance. 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. Fortunately, it paid out only 35% of its free cash flow in the past year.

It's good to see that while Smiths Group'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.

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

historic-dividend
historic-dividend

Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?

Companies with falling earnings are riskier for dividend shareholders. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. With that in mind, we're discomforted by Smiths Group's 21% per annum decline in earnings in 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. It looks like the Smiths Group dividends are largely the same as they were 10 years ago. When earnings are declining yet the dividends are flat, typically the company is either paying out a higher portion of its earnings, or paying out of cash or debt on the balance sheet, neither of which is ideal.

The Bottom Line

Should investors buy Smiths Group for the upcoming dividend? It's not a great combination to see a company with earnings in decline and paying out 189% of its profits, which could imply the dividend may be at risk of being cut in the future. Yet cashflow was much stronger, which makes us wonder if there are some large timing issues in Smiths Group's cash flows, or perhaps the company has written down some assets aggressively, reducing its income. With the way things are shaping up from a dividend perspective, we'd be inclined to steer clear of Smiths Group.

So if you're still interested in Smiths Group despite it's poor dividend qualities, you should be well informed on some of the risks facing this stock. Every company has risks, and we've spotted 2 warning signs for Smiths Group you should know about.

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.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.