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 Origin Energy Limited (ASX:ORG) is about to go ex-dividend in just 4 days. You will need to purchase shares before the 2nd of September to receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 27th of September.
Origin Energy’s upcoming dividend is AU$0.15 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of AU$0.30 per share to shareholders. Based on the last year’s worth of payments, Origin Energy has a trailing yield of 4.0% on the current stock price of A$7.55. 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! So we need to check whether the dividend payments are covered, and if earnings are growing.
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. That’s why it’s good to see Origin Energy paying out a modest 36% of its earnings. 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. Luckily it paid out just 15% of its free 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 earnings decline and the company is forced to cut its dividend, investors could watch the value of their investment go up in smoke. Fortunately for readers, Origin Energy’s earnings per share have been growing at 19% 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. Origin Energy has seen its dividend decline 5.0% per annum on average over the past 10 years, which is not great to see. Origin Energy is a rare case where dividends have been decreasing at the same time as earnings per share have been improving. It’s unusual to see, and could point to unstable conditions in the core business, or more rarely an intensified focus on reinvesting profits.
The Bottom Line
Is Origin Energy worth buying for its dividend? It’s great that Origin Energy is growing earnings per share while simultaneously paying out a low percentage of both its earnings and cash flow. It’s disappointing to see the dividend has been cut at least once in the past, but as things stand now, the low payout ratio suggests a conservative approach to dividends, which we like. It’s a promising combination that should mark this company worthy of closer attention.
Wondering what the future holds for Origin Energy? See what the ten 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.
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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. Thank you for reading.