Should You Buy Oil Search Limited (ASX:OSH) For Its Upcoming Dividend In 4 Days?

Regular readers will know that we love our dividends at Simply Wall St, which is why it’s exciting to see Oil Search Limited (ASX:OSH) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 4 days. You will need to purchase shares before the 3rd of September to receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 24th of September.

Oil Search’s next dividend payment will be US$0.05 per share, on the back of last year when the company paid a total of US$0.14 to shareholders. Calculating the last year’s worth of payments shows that Oil Search has a trailing yield of 3.1% on the current share price of A$6.49. If you buy this business for its dividend, you should have an idea of whether Oil Search’s dividend is reliable and sustainable. That’s why we should always check whether the dividend payments appear sustainable, and if the company is growing.

Check out our latest analysis for Oil Search

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 Oil Search paying out a modest 49% of its earnings. 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. It paid out 25% of its free cash flow as dividends last year, which is conservatively low.

It’s positive to see that Oil Search’s dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.

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

ASX:OSH Historical Dividend Yield, August 29th 2019
ASX:OSH Historical Dividend Yield, August 29th 2019

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 fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. Fortunately for readers, Oil Search’s earnings per share have been growing at 13% 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. Fast-growing businesses that are reinvesting heavily are enticing from a dividend perspective, especially since they can often increase the payout ratio later.

Many investors will assess a company’s dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. Since the start of our data, ten years ago, Oil Search has lifted its dividend by approximately 5.4% a year on average. It’s good to see both earnings and the dividend have improved – although the former has been rising much quicker than the latter, possibly due to the company reinvesting more of its profits in growth.

Final Takeaway

Is Oil Search an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? It’s great that Oil Search 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. There’s a lot to like about Oil Search, and we would prioritise taking a closer look at it.

Ever wonder what the future holds for Oil Search? See what the 13 analysts we track are forecasting, with this visualisation of its historical and future estimated earnings and cash flow

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.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.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. Thank you for reading.