Readers hoping to buy Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) for its dividend will need to make their move shortly, as the stock is about to trade ex-dividend. You will need to purchase shares before the 7th of February to receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 13th of February.
Apple’s upcoming dividend is US$0.77 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of US$3.08 per share to shareholders. Based on the last year’s worth of payments, Apple has a trailing yield of 1.0% on the current stock price of $309.51. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. So we need to check whether the dividend payments are covered, and if earnings are growing.
If a company pays out more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable – hardly an ideal situation. Apple has a low and conservative payout ratio of just 24% of its income after tax. 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. What’s good is that dividends were well covered by free cash flow, with the company paying out 22% of its cash flow last year.
It’s encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don’t drop precipitously.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Stocks in companies that generate sustainable earnings growth often make the best dividend prospects, as it is easier to lift the dividend when earnings are rising. If business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. Fortunately for readers, Apple’s earnings per share have been growing at 14% a year for the past five years. Earnings per share have been growing rapidly and the company is retaining a majority of its earnings within the business. This will make it easier to fund future growth efforts and we think this is an attractive combination – plus the dividend can always be increased later.
The main way most investors will assess a company’s dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. Apple has delivered an average of 9.3% per year annual increase in its dividend, based on the past eight years of dividend payments. We’re glad to see dividends rising alongside earnings over a number of years, which may be a sign the company intends to share the growth with shareholders.
The Bottom Line
Is Apple an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? We love that Apple is growing earnings per share while simultaneously paying out a low percentage of both its earnings and cash flow. These characteristics suggest the company is reinvesting in growing its business, while the conservative payout ratio also implies a reduced risk of the dividend being cut in the future. There’s a lot to like about Apple, and we would prioritise taking a closer look at it.
Ever wonder what the future holds for Apple? See what the 39 analysts we track 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.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.
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