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

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Regular readers will know that we love our dividends at Simply Wall St, which is why it's exciting to see Steelcase Inc. (NYSE:SCS) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 4 days. You will need to purchase shares before the 1st of April to receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 15th of April.

Steelcase's next dividend payment will be US$0.10 per share, on the back of last year when the company paid a total of US$0.40 to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Steelcase stock has a trailing yield of around 2.7% on the current share price of $14.67. Dividends are an important source of income to many shareholders, but the health of the business is crucial to maintaining those dividends. We need to see whether the dividend is covered by earnings and if it's growing.

View our latest analysis for Steelcase

Dividends are usually paid out of company profits, so if a company pays out more than it earned then its dividend is usually at greater risk of being cut. Steelcase distributed an unsustainably high 167% of its profit as dividends to shareholders last year. Without extenuating circumstances, we'd consider the dividend at risk of a cut. Yet cash flow is typically more important than profit for assessing dividend sustainability, so we should always check if the company generated enough cash to afford its dividend. Over the past year it paid out 185% of its free cash flow as dividends, which is uncomfortably 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.

Cash is slightly more important than profit from a dividend perspective, but given Steelcase's payments were not well covered by either earnings or cash flow, we are concerned about the sustainability of this dividend.

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?

When earnings decline, dividend companies become much harder to analyse and own safely. If business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. Steelcase's earnings per share have plummeted approximately 31% a year over the previous five years.

Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. In the last 10 years, Steelcase has lifted its dividend by approximately 9.6% a year on average. The only way to pay higher dividends when earnings are shrinking is either to pay out a larger percentage of profits, spend cash from the balance sheet, or borrow the money. Steelcase is already paying out a high percentage of its income, so without earnings growth, we're doubtful of whether this dividend will grow much in the future.

Final Takeaway

Is Steelcase worth buying for its dividend? It's looking like an unattractive opportunity, with its earnings per share declining, while, paying out an uncomfortably high percentage of both its profits (167%) and cash flow as dividends. Unless there are grounds to believe a turnaround is imminent, this is one of the least attractive dividend stocks under this analysis. It's not that we think Steelcase is a bad company, but these characteristics don't generally lead to outstanding dividend performance.

So if you're still interested in Steelcase despite it's poor dividend qualities, you should be well informed on some of the risks facing this stock. To help with this, we've discovered 4 warning signs for Steelcase (1 is concerning!) that you ought to be aware of before buying the shares.

A common investment mistake is buying the first interesting stock you see. Here you can find a list of promising 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.