Bapcor Limited (ASX:BAP) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next two days. Typically, the ex-dividend date is one business day before the record date which is the date on which a company determines the shareholders eligible to receive a dividend. The ex-dividend date is important as the process of settlement involves two full business days. So if you miss that date, you would not show up on the company's books on the record date. In other words, investors can purchase Bapcor's shares before the 25th of February in order to be eligible for the dividend, which will be paid on the 14th of March.
The company's next dividend payment will be AU$0.10 per share, and in the last 12 months, the company paid a total of AU$0.20 per share. Looking at the last 12 months of distributions, Bapcor has a trailing yield of approximately 3.0% on its current stock price of A$6.7. 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 investigate whether Bapcor can afford its dividend, and if the dividend could grow.
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. Bapcor is paying out an acceptable 65% of its profit, a common payout level among most companies. 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 162% 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.
While Bapcor's dividends were covered by the company's reported profits, cash is somewhat more important, so it's not great to see that the company didn't generate enough cash to pay its dividend. Cash is king, as they say, and were Bapcor to repeatedly pay dividends that aren't well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Companies with falling earnings are riskier for dividend shareholders. If earnings decline and the company is forced to cut its dividend, investors could watch the value of their investment go up in smoke. Bapcor's earnings per share have plummeted approximately 100% a year over the previous five years.
The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. In the last seven years, Bapcor has lifted its dividend by approximately 14% a year on average. Growing the dividend payout ratio while earnings are declining can deliver nice returns for a while, but it's always worth checking for when the company can't increase the payout ratio any more - because then the music stops.
The Bottom Line
Should investors buy Bapcor for the upcoming dividend? Bapcor had an average payout ratio, but its free cash flow was lower and earnings per share have been declining. With the way things are shaping up from a dividend perspective, we'd be inclined to steer clear of Bapcor.
With that being said, if you're still considering Bapcor as an investment, you'll find it beneficial to know what risks this stock is facing. Every company has risks, and we've spotted 1 warning sign for Bapcor you should know about.
Generally, we wouldn't recommend just buying the first dividend stock you see. Here's a curated list of interesting stocks that are strong dividend payers.
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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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.