United-Guardian, Inc. (NASDAQ:UG) stock is about to trade ex-dividend in 4 days time. If you purchase the stock on or after the 2nd of December, you won't be eligible to receive this dividend, when it is paid on the 10th of December.
United-Guardian's upcoming dividend is US$0.55 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of US$1.10 per share to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, United-Guardian stock has a trailing yield of around 5.6% on the current share price of $19.8. Dividends are an important source of income to many shareholders, but the health of the business is crucial to maintaining those dividends. As a result, readers should always check whether United-Guardian has been able to grow its dividends, or if the dividend might be cut.
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. United-Guardian distributed an unsustainably high 128% of its profit as dividends to shareholders last year. Without extenuating circumstances, we'd consider the dividend at risk of a cut. 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. Over the past year it paid out 111% of its free cash flow as dividends, which is uncomfortably high. It's hard to consistently pay out more cash than you generate without either borrowing or using company cash, so we'd wonder how the company justifies this payout level.
United-Guardian does have a large net cash position on the balance sheet, which could fund large dividends for a time, if the company so chose. Still, smart investors know that it is better to assess dividends relative to the cash and profit generated by the business. Paying dividends out of cash on the balance sheet is not long-term sustainable.
As United-Guardian's dividend was not well covered by either earnings or cash flow, we would be concerned that this dividend could be at risk over the long term.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Businesses with shrinking earnings are tricky from a dividend perspective. If business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. Readers will understand then, why we're concerned to see United-Guardian's earnings per share have dropped 7.7% a year over the past five years. When earnings per share fall, the maximum amount of dividends that can be paid also falls.
The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. United-Guardian has delivered an average of 7.2% per year annual increase in its dividend, based on the past ten years of dividend payments. 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. United-Guardian 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.
The Bottom Line
Is United-Guardian an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? Not only are earnings per share declining, but United-Guardian is paying out an uncomfortably high percentage of both its earnings and cashflow to shareholders as dividends. Unless there are grounds to believe a turnaround is imminent, this is one of the least attractive dividend stocks under this analysis. With the way things are shaping up from a dividend perspective, we'd be inclined to steer clear of United-Guardian.
Want to learn more about United-Guardian? Here's a visualisation of its historical rate of revenue and earnings growth.
We wouldn't recommend just buying the first dividend stock you see, though. Here's a list of interesting dividend stocks with a greater than 2% yield and an upcoming dividend.
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