Union Pacific Corporation (NYSE:UNP) Looks Interesting, And It's About To Pay A Dividend

By
Simply Wall St
Published
February 22, 2021
NYSE:UNP

Some investors rely on dividends for growing their wealth, and if you're one of those dividend sleuths, you might be intrigued to know that Union Pacific Corporation (NYSE:UNP) is about to go ex-dividend in just 2 days. This means that investors who purchase shares on or after the 25th of February will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 31st of March.

Union Pacific's next dividend payment will be US$0.97 per share, and in the last 12 months, the company paid a total of US$3.88 per share. Last year's total dividend payments show that Union Pacific has a trailing yield of 1.9% on the current share price of $209.06. 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! That's why we should always check whether the dividend payments appear sustainable, and if the company is growing.

See our latest analysis for Union Pacific

If a company pays out more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. That's why it's good to see Union Pacific paying out a modest 49% of its earnings. Yet cash flow is typically more important than profit for assessing dividend sustainability, so we should always check if the company generated enough cash to afford its dividend. Thankfully its dividend payments took up just 47% of the free cash flow it generated, which is a comfortable payout ratio.

It's positive to see that Union Pacific'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:UNP Historic Dividend February 22nd 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. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. This is why it's a relief to see Union Pacific earnings per share are up 7.5% per annum over the last five years. The company is retaining more than half of its earnings within the business, and it has been growing earnings at a decent rate. We think this is generally an attractive combination, as dividends can grow through a combination of earnings growth and or a higher payout ratio over time.

Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. In the last 10 years, Union Pacific has lifted its dividend by approximately 19% a year on average. 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.

Final Takeaway

Is Union Pacific worth buying for its dividend? Earnings per share have been growing moderately, and Union Pacific is paying out less than half its earnings and cash flow as dividends, which is an attractive combination as it suggests the company is investing in growth. It might be nice to see earnings growing faster, but Union Pacific is being conservative with its dividend payouts and could still perform reasonably over the long run. Union Pacific looks solid on this analysis overall, and we'd definitely consider investigating it more closely.

With that in mind, a critical part of thorough stock research is being aware of any risks that stock currently faces. To help with this, we've discovered 1 warning sign for Union Pacific that you should be aware of before investing in their shares.

If you're in the market for dividend stocks, we recommend checking our list of top 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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