Readers hoping to buy Centamin plc (LON:CEY) for its dividend will need to make their move shortly, as the stock is about to trade ex-dividend. 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 important because any transaction on a stock needs to have been settled before the record date in order to be eligible for a dividend. Thus, you can purchase Centamin's shares before the 19th of May in order to receive the dividend, which the company will pay on the 10th of June.
The company's next dividend payment will be US$0.05 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed US$0.09 to shareholders. Last year's total dividend payments show that Centamin has a trailing yield of 8.8% on the current share price of £0.836. If you buy this business for its dividend, you should have an idea of whether Centamin's dividend is reliable and sustainable. As a result, readers should always check whether Centamin has been able to grow its dividends, or if the dividend might be cut.
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. Last year Centamin paid out 102% of its profits as dividends to shareholders, suggesting the dividend is not well covered by earnings. 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. Centamin paid out more free cash flow than it generated - 117%, to be precise - last year, which we think is concerningly high. It's hard to consistently pay out more cash than you generate without either borrowing or using company cash, so we'd wonder how the company justifies this payout level.
Centamin does have a large net cash position on the balance sheet, which could fund large dividends for a time, if the company so chose. Still, smart investors know that it is better to assess dividends relative to the cash and profit generated by the business. Paying dividends out of cash on the balance sheet is not long-term sustainable.
As Centamin's dividend was not well covered by either earnings or cash flow, we would be concerned that this dividend could be at risk over the long term.
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. Centamin's earnings per share have fallen at approximately 14% a year over the previous five years. Such a sharp decline casts doubt on the future sustainability of the dividend.
Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. Since the start of our data, eight years ago, Centamin has lifted its dividend by approximately 23% a year on average. That's intriguing, but the combination of growing dividends despite declining earnings can typically only be achieved by paying out a larger percentage of profits. Centamin is already paying out 102% of its profits, and with shrinking earnings we think it's unlikely that this dividend will grow quickly in the future.
To Sum It Up
From a dividend perspective, should investors buy or avoid Centamin? Not only are earnings per share declining, but Centamin is paying out an uncomfortably high percentage of both its earnings and cashflow to shareholders as dividends. This is a clearly suboptimal combination that usually suggests the dividend is at risk of being cut. If not now, then perhaps in the future. 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 Centamin. Our analysis shows 2 warning signs for Centamin that we strongly recommend you have a look at before investing in the company.
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.