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Today we’ll take a closer look at Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) from a dividend investor’s perspective. Owning a strong business and reinvesting the dividends is widely seen as an attractive way of growing your wealth. If you are hoping to live on your dividends, it’s important to be more stringent with your investments than the average punter. Regular readers know we like to apply the same approach to each dividend stock, and we hope you’ll find our analysis useful.
Investors might not know much about Apple’s dividend prospects, even though it has been paying dividends for the last seven years and offers a 1.5% yield. While the yield may not look too great, the relatively long payment history is interesting. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 8.0% of the company’s market capitalisation at the time. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.
Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable – hardly an ideal situation. As a result, we should always investigate whether a company can afford its dividend, measured as a percentage of a company’s net income after tax. In the last year, Apple paid out 24% of its profit as dividends. With a low payout ratio, it looks like the dividend is comprehensively covered by earnings.
In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Apple’s cash payout ratio last year was 24%. Cash flows are typically lumpy, but this looks like an appropriately conservative payout. It’s encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don’t drop precipitously.
Before buying a stock for its income, we want to see if the dividends have been stable in the past, and if the company has a track record of maintaining its dividend. Apple has been paying a dividend for the past seven years. During the past seven-year period, the first annual payment was US$1.51 in 2012, compared to US$3.08 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 11% a year over that time.
We’re not overly excited about the relatively short history of dividend payments, however the dividend is growing at a nice rate and we might take a closer look.
Dividend Growth Potential
The other half of the dividend investing equation is evaluating whether earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Growing EPS can help maintain or increase the purchasing power of the dividend over the long run. It’s good to see Apple has been growing its earnings per share at 16% a year over the past 5 years. Earnings per share are growing at a solid clip, and the payout ratio is low. We think this is an ideal combination in a dividend stock.
To summarise, shareholders should always check that Apple’s dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. Firstly, we like that Apple has low and conservative payout ratios. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the company has not been paying dividends as long as we’d like. Overall we think Apple scores well on our analysis. It’s not quite perfect, but we’d definitely be keen to take a closer look.
Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 41 Apple analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company.
If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding above 3%.
We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.