Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) stock is about to trade ex-dividend in 3 days. The ex-dividend date is one business day before a company's record date, which is the date on which the company determines which shareholders are entitled to receive a dividend. The ex-dividend date is of consequence because whenever a stock is bought or sold, the trade takes at least two business day to settle. This means that investors who purchase Microsoft's shares on or after the 18th of May will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 9th of June.
The company's next dividend payment will be US$0.62 per share, and in the last 12 months, the company paid a total of US$2.48 per share. Last year's total dividend payments show that Microsoft has a trailing yield of 0.9% on the current share price of $261.12. Dividends are an important source of income to many shareholders, but the health of the business is crucial to maintaining those dividends. That's why we should always check whether the dividend payments appear sustainable, and if the company is 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. Microsoft paid out a comfortable 25% of its profit last year. Yet cash flows are even more important than profits for assessing a dividend, so we need to see if the company generated enough cash to pay its distribution. Thankfully its dividend payments took up just 28% of the free cash flow it generated, which is a comfortable payout ratio.
It's positive to see that Microsoft'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.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Stocks in companies that generate sustainable earnings growth often make the best dividend prospects, as it is easier to lift the dividend when earnings are rising. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. It's encouraging to see Microsoft has grown its earnings rapidly, up 30% a year for the past five years. Earnings per share have been growing very quickly, and the company is paying out a relatively low percentage of its profit and cash flow. Companies with growing earnings and low payout ratios are often the best long-term dividend stocks, as the company can both grow its earnings and increase the percentage of earnings that it pays out, essentially multiplying the dividend.
Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. In the past 10 years, Microsoft has increased its dividend at approximately 15% a year on average. Both per-share earnings and dividends have both been growing rapidly in recent times, which is great to see.
Is Microsoft an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? Microsoft has been growing earnings at a rapid rate, and has a conservatively low payout ratio, implying that it is reinvesting heavily in its business; a sterling combination. There's a lot to like about Microsoft, and we would prioritise taking a closer look at it.
Ever wonder what the future holds for Microsoft? See what the 44 analysts we track are forecasting, with this visualisation of its historical and future estimated earnings and cash flow
A common investing mistake is buying the first interesting stock you see. Here you can find a full list of high-yield dividend stocks.
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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.