Here's Why We're Wary Of Buying AGL Energy's (ASX:AGL) For Its Upcoming Dividend

By
Simply Wall St
Published
August 20, 2021
ASX:AGL
Source: Shutterstock

AGL Energy Limited (ASX:AGL) stock is about to trade ex-dividend in four days. The ex-dividend date is one business day before the record date, which is the cut-off date for shareholders to be present on the company's books to be eligible for a dividend payment. The ex-dividend date is an important date to be aware of as any purchase of the stock made on or after this date might mean a late settlement that doesn't show on the record date. Meaning, you will need to purchase AGL Energy's shares before the 25th of August to receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 29th of September.

The company's next dividend payment will be AU$0.34 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed AU$0.65 to shareholders. Calculating the last year's worth of payments shows that AGL Energy has a trailing yield of 9.1% on the current share price of A$7.15. If you buy this business for its dividend, you should have an idea of whether AGL Energy's dividend is reliable and sustainable. We need to see whether the dividend is covered by earnings and if it's growing.

View our latest analysis for AGL Energy

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. AGL Energy paid a dividend last year despite being unprofitable. This might be a one-off event, but it's not a sustainable state of affairs in the long run. Given that the company reported a loss last year, we now need to see if it generated enough free cash flow to fund the dividend. If cash earnings don't cover the dividend, the company would have to pay dividends out of cash in the bank, or by borrowing money, neither of which is long-term sustainable. It paid out 103% of its free cash flow in the form of dividends last year, which is outside the comfort zone for most businesses. Companies usually need cash more than they need earnings - expenses don't pay themselves - so it's not great to see it paying out so much of its cash flow.

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

historic-dividend
ASX:AGL Historic Dividend August 20th 2021

Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?

Businesses with shrinking earnings are tricky from a dividend perspective. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. AGL Energy reported a loss last year, and the general trend suggests its earnings have also been declining in recent years, making us wonder if the dividend is at risk.

The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. In the last 10 years, AGL Energy has lifted its dividend by approximately 1.0% a year on average.

We update our analysis on AGL Energy every 24 hours, so you can always get the latest insights on its financial health, here.

Final Takeaway

Is AGL Energy an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? We're a bit uncomfortable with it paying a dividend while being loss-making, especially given that the dividend was not well covered by free cash flow. It's not an attractive combination from a dividend perspective, and we're inclined to pass on this one for the time being.

Having said that, if you're looking at this stock without much concern for the dividend, you should still be familiar of the risks involved with AGL Energy. For example - AGL Energy has 3 warning signs we think you should be aware of.

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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