J Sainsbury plc (LON:SBRY) stock is about to trade ex-dividend in 2 days. If you purchase the stock on or after the 12th of November, you won't be eligible to receive this dividend, when it is paid on the 18th of December.
The upcoming dividend for J Sainsbury is UK£0.10 per share, increased from last year's total dividends per share of UK£0.064. 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! That's why we should always check whether the dividend payments appear sustainable, and if the company is growing.
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. J Sainsbury lost money last year, so the fact that it's paying a dividend is certainly disconcerting. There might be a good reason for this, but we'd want to look into it further before getting comfortable. With the recent loss, it's important to check if the business generated enough cash to pay its dividend. If J Sainsbury didn't generate enough cash to pay the dividend, then it must have either paid from cash in the bank or by borrowing money, neither of which is sustainable in the long term. What's good is that dividends were well covered by free cash flow, with the company paying out 8.1% of its cash flow last year.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
When earnings decline, dividend companies become much harder to analyse and own safely. If business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. J Sainsbury was unprofitable last year and, unfortunately, the general trend suggests its earnings have been in decline over the last five years, making us wonder if the dividend is sustainable at all.
Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. J Sainsbury has seen its dividend decline 7.7% per annum on average over the past 10 years, which is not great to see. 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.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of J Sainsbury's financial health, by checking our visualisation of its financial health, here.
The Bottom Line
From a dividend perspective, should investors buy or avoid J Sainsbury? It's hard to get used to J Sainsbury paying a dividend despite reporting a loss over the past year. At least the dividend was covered by free cash flow, however. With the way things are shaping up from a dividend perspective, we'd be inclined to steer clear of J Sainsbury.
Although, if you're still interested in J Sainsbury and want to know more, you'll find it very useful to know what risks this stock faces. For example - J Sainsbury has 1 warning sign we think you should be aware of.
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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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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