Should Income Investors Look At McDonald's Corporation (NYSE:MCD) Before Its Ex-Dividend?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
February 21, 2021
NYSE:MCD

McDonald's Corporation (NYSE:MCD) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next four days. If you purchase the stock on or after the 26th of February, you won't be eligible to receive this dividend, when it is paid on the 15th of March.

McDonald's's upcoming dividend is US$1.29 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of US$5.16 per share to shareholders. Last year's total dividend payments show that McDonald's has a trailing yield of 2.4% on the current share price of $212.24. If you buy this business for its dividend, you should have an idea of whether McDonald's's dividend is reliable and sustainable. So we need to investigate whether McDonald's can afford its dividend, and if the dividend could grow.

See our latest analysis for McDonald's

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. Its dividend payout ratio is 80% of profit, which means the company is paying out a majority of its earnings. The relatively limited profit reinvestment could slow the rate of future earnings growth. We'd be concerned if earnings began to decline. 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. Over the last year, it paid out more than three-quarters (81%) of its free cash flow generated, which is fairly high and may be starting to limit reinvestment in the business.

It's positive to see that McDonald's's dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.

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

historic-dividend
NYSE:MCD Historic Dividend February 21st 2021

Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?

Companies with consistently growing earnings per share generally make the best dividend stocks, as they usually find it easier to grow dividends per share. If business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. With that in mind, we're encouraged by the steady growth at McDonald's, with earnings per share up 5.5% on average over the last five years. While earnings have been growing at a credible rate, the company is paying out a majority of its earnings to shareholders. Therefore it's unlikely that the company will be able to reinvest heavily in its business, which could presage slower growth in the future.

Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. McDonald's has delivered an average of 8.9% per year annual increase in its dividend, based on the past 10 years of dividend payments. We're glad to see dividends rising alongside earnings over a number of years, which may be a sign the company intends to share the growth with shareholders.

To Sum It Up

Is McDonald's an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? Earnings per share growth has been unremarkable, and while the company is paying out a majority of its earnings and cash flow in the form of dividends, the dividend payments don't appear excessive. Overall, it's hard to get excited about McDonald's from a dividend perspective.

However if you're still interested in McDonald's as a potential investment, you should definitely consider some of the risks involved with McDonald's. Our analysis shows 1 warning sign for McDonald's and you should be aware of it before buying any shares.

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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