Readers hoping to buy Telstra Corporation Limited (ASX:TLS) 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 24th of February to receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 26th of March.
Telstra's upcoming dividend is AU$0.08 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of AU$0.16 per share to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Telstra has a trailing yield of 4.8% on the current stock price of A$3.3. 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! As a result, readers should always check whether Telstra has been able to grow its dividends, or if the dividend might be cut.
Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned in profit, then the dividend could be unsustainable. Telstra paid out 67% of its earnings to investors last year, a normal payout level for most businesses. 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. Thankfully its dividend payments took up just 28% of the free cash flow it generated, which is a comfortable payout ratio.
It's positive to see that Telstra'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.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Companies with falling earnings are riskier for dividend shareholders. If earnings fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. Readers will understand then, why we're concerned to see Telstra's earnings per share have dropped 15% a year over the past five years. Such a sharp decline casts doubt on the future sustainability of the dividend.
The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. Telstra's dividend payments per share have declined at 5.4% per year on average over the past 10 years, which is uninspiring. It's never nice to see earnings and dividends falling, but at least management has cut the dividend rather than potentially risk the company's health in an attempt to maintain it.
To Sum It Up
From a dividend perspective, should investors buy or avoid Telstra? We're not enthused by the declining earnings per share, although at least the company's payout ratio is within a reasonable range, meaning it may not be at imminent risk of a dividend cut. Overall, it's hard to get excited about Telstra from a dividend perspective.
With that being said, if dividends aren't your biggest concern with Telstra, you should know about the other risks facing this business. Every company has risks, and we've spotted 3 warning signs for Telstra you should know about.
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.
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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. 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.
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