Dividend paying stocks like FedEx Corporation (NYSE:FDX) tend to be popular with investors, and for good reason - some research suggests a significant amount of all stock market returns come from reinvested dividends. Yet sometimes, investors buy a stock for its dividend and lose money because the share price falls by more than they earned in dividend payments.
A 0.9% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests FedEx has some staying power. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.
Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. FedEx paid out 38% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. This is a medium payout level that leaves enough capital in the business to fund opportunities that might arise, while also rewarding shareholders. Plus, there is room to increase the payout ratio over time.
Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. The company paid out 52% of its free cash flow, which is not bad per se, but does start to limit the amount of cash FedEx has available to meet other needs. It's positive to see that FedEx'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.
We update our data on FedEx every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.
One of the major risks of relying on dividend income, is the potential for a company to struggle financially and cut its dividend. Not only is your income cut, but the value of your investment declines as well - nasty. FedEx has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. The dividend has been stable over the past 10 years, which is great. We think this could suggest some resilience to the business and its dividends. During the past 10-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.4 in 2010, compared to US$2.6 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 19% per year over this time.
Dividends have been growing pretty quickly, and even more impressively, they haven't experienced any notable falls during this period.
Dividend Growth Potential
While dividend payments have been relatively reliable, it would also be nice if earnings per share (EPS) were growing, as this is essential to maintaining the dividend's purchasing power over the long term. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see FedEx has grown its earnings per share at 13% per annum over the past five years. A company paying out less than a quarter of its earnings as dividends, and growing earnings at more than 10% per annum, looks to be right in the cusp of its growth phase. At the right price, we might be interested.
When we look at a dividend stock, we need to form a judgement on whether the dividend will grow, if the company is able to maintain it in a wide range of economic circumstances, and if the dividend payout is sustainable. Above all, we're glad to see that FedEx pays out a low fraction of its earnings and, while it paid a higher percentage of cashflow, this also was within a normal range. That said, we were glad to see it growing earnings and paying a fairly consistent dividend. FedEx performs highly under this analysis, although it falls slightly short of our exacting standards. At the right valuation, it could be a solid dividend prospect.
Investors generally tend to favour companies with a consistent, stable dividend policy as opposed to those operating an irregular one. However, there are other things to consider for investors when analysing stock performance. For example, we've picked out 3 warning signs for FedEx that investors should know about before committing capital to this stock.
We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 3%.
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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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