MSA Safety Incorporated (NYSE:MSA) stock is about to trade ex-dividend in three days. The ex-dividend date occurs one day before the record date which is the day on which shareholders need to be on the company's books in order to receive a dividend. 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. This means that investors who purchase MSA Safety's shares on or after the 13th of May will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 10th of June.
The company's next dividend payment will be US$0.46 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed US$1.76 to shareholders. Calculating the last year's worth of payments shows that MSA Safety has a trailing yield of 1.4% on the current share price of $122.31. 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! We need to see whether the dividend is covered by earnings and if it's 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. MSA Safety paid out a disturbingly high 339% of its profit as dividends last year, which makes us concerned there's something we don't fully understand in the business. 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. It paid out more than half (51%) of its free cash flow in the past year, which is within an average range for most companies.
It's disappointing to see that the dividend was not covered by profits, but cash is more important from a dividend sustainability perspective, and MSA Safety fortunately did generate enough cash to fund its dividend. If executives were to continue paying more in dividends than the company reported in profits, we'd view this as a warning sign. Extraordinarily few companies are capable of persistently paying a dividend that is greater than their profits.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Companies with falling earnings are riskier for dividend shareholders. If earnings fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. With that in mind, we're discomforted by MSA Safety's 27% per annum decline in earnings in the past five years. Such a sharp decline casts doubt on the future sustainability of the dividend.
Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. In the past 10 years, MSA Safety has increased its dividend at approximately 5.4% 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. MSA Safety is already paying out 339% 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
Has MSA Safety got what it takes to maintain its dividend payments? Earnings per share have been shrinking in recent times. Worse, MSA Safety's paying out a majority of its earnings and more than half its free cash flow. Positive cash flows are good news but it's not a good combination. 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 MSA Safety. For example, we've found 4 warning signs for MSA Safety that we recommend you consider before investing in the business.
A common investing mistake is buying the first interesting stock you see. Here you can find a full list of high-yield dividend stocks.
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.