We Wouldn't Be Too Quick To Buy BP p.l.c. (LON:BP.) Before It Goes Ex-Dividend

By
Simply Wall St
Published
November 01, 2020
LSE:BP.

Regular readers will know that we love our dividends at Simply Wall St, which is why it's exciting to see BP p.l.c. (LON:BP.) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 3 days. You will need to purchase shares before the 5th of November to receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 18th of December.

BP's next dividend payment will be US$0.052 per share, on the back of last year when the company paid a total of US$0.21 to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, BP has a trailing yield of 8.2% on the current stock price of £1.966. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. 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 BP

Dividends are typically paid out of company income, so if a company pays out more than it earned, its dividend is usually at a higher risk of being cut. BP's dividend is not well covered by earnings, as the company lost money last year. This is not a sustainable state of affairs, so it would be worth investigating if earnings are expected to recover. With the recent loss, it's important to check if the business generated enough cash to pay its dividend. If BP 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. BP paid out more free cash flow than it generated - 176%, to be precise - last year, which we think is concerningly 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.

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

historic-dividend
LSE:BP. Historic Dividend November 1st 2020

Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?

Stocks with flat earnings can still be attractive dividend payers, but it is important to be more conservative with your approach and demand a greater margin for safety when it comes to dividend sustainability. If business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. BP was unprofitable last year, but at least the general trend suggests its earnings have been improving over the past five years. Even so, an unprofitable company whose business does not quickly recover is usually not a good candidate for dividend investors.

Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. BP's dividend payments per share have declined at 9.3% per year on average over the past 10 years, which is uninspiring.

Get our latest analysis on BP's balance sheet health here.

To Sum It Up

From a dividend perspective, should investors buy or avoid BP? First, it's not great to see the company paying a dividend despite being loss-making over the last year. Second, the dividend was not well covered by cash flow." With the way things are shaping up from a dividend perspective, we'd be inclined to steer clear of BP.

So if you're still interested in BP despite it's poor dividend qualities, you should be well informed on some of the risks facing this stock. In terms of investment risks, we've identified 3 warning signs with BP and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

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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