Dividend Investors: Don't Be Too Quick To Buy Vital Limited (NZSE:VTL) For Its Upcoming Dividend

By
Simply Wall St
Published
September 25, 2021
NZSE:VTL
Source: Shutterstock

Vital Limited (NZSE:VTL) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next four days. The ex-dividend date is usually set to be one business day before the record date which is the cut-off date on which you must be present on the company's books as a shareholder in order to receive the dividend. The ex-dividend date is important as the process of settlement involves two full business days. So if you miss that date, you would not show up on the company's books on the record date. Thus, you can purchase Vital's shares before the 30th of September in order to receive the dividend, which the company will pay on the 15th of October.

The upcoming dividend for Vital is NZ$0.024 per share, increased from last year's total dividends per share of NZ$0.02. 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 Vital

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. Last year Vital paid out 98% of its profits as dividends to shareholders, suggesting the dividend is not well covered by earnings. Yet cash flows are even more important than profits for assessing a dividend, so we need to see if the company generated enough cash to pay its distribution. The good news is it paid out just 24% of its free cash flow in the last year.

It's good to see that while Vital's dividends were not well covered by profits, at least they are affordable from a cash perspective. Still, if the company continues paying out such a high percentage of its profits, the dividend could be at risk if business turns sour.

Click here to see how much of its profit Vital paid out over the last 12 months.

historic-dividend
NZSE:VTL Historic Dividend September 25th 2021

Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?

When earnings decline, dividend companies become much harder to analyse and own safely. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. With that in mind, we're discomforted by Vital's 29% per annum decline in earnings in 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. Vital has seen its dividend decline 21% 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.

Final Takeaway

Is Vital an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? It's never great to see earnings per share declining, especially when a company is paying out 98% of its profit as dividends, which we feel is uncomfortably high. However, the cash payout ratio was much lower - good news from a dividend perspective - which makes us wonder why there is such a mis-match between income and cashflow. It's not an attractive combination from a dividend perspective, and we're inclined to pass on this one for the time being.

So if you're still interested in Vital despite it's poor dividend qualities, you should be well informed on some of the risks facing this stock. Our analysis shows 3 warning signs for Vital that we strongly recommend you have a look at before investing in the company.

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. 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.
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Simply Wall St

Simply Wall St is focused on providing unbiased, high-quality research coverage on every listed company in the world. Our research team consists of data scientists and multiple equity analysts with over two decades worth of financial markets experience between them.