It looks like Eaton Corporation plc (NYSE:ETN) is about to go ex-dividend in the next two days. The ex-dividend date is one business day before the record date, which is the cut-off date for shareholders to be present on the company's books to be eligible for a dividend payment. The ex-dividend date is an important date to be aware of as any purchase of the stock made on or after this date might mean a late settlement that doesn't show on the record date. Thus, you can purchase Eaton's shares before the 11th of August in order to receive the dividend, which the company will pay on the 26th of August.
The company's upcoming dividend is US$0.81 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of US$3.24 per share to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Eaton stock has a trailing yield of around 2.2% on the current share price of $148.65. If you buy this business for its dividend, you should have an idea of whether Eaton's dividend is reliable and sustainable. We need to see whether the dividend is covered by earnings and if it's 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. Eaton paid out 54% of its earnings to investors last year, a normal payout level for most businesses. 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. Eaton paid out more free cash flow than it generated - 115%, to be precise - last year, which we think is concerningly high. We're curious about why the company paid out more cash than it generated last year, since this can be one of the early signs that a dividend may be unsustainable.
While Eaton's dividends were covered by the company's reported profits, cash is somewhat more important, so it's not great to see that the company didn't generate enough cash to pay its dividend. Were this to happen repeatedly, this would be a risk to Eaton's ability to maintain its dividend.
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 Eaton, with earnings per share up 6.6% on average over the last five years. Earnings have been growing at a steady rate, but we're concerned dividend payments consumed most of the company's cash flow over the past year.
Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. Eaton has delivered an average of 9.1% 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.
Should investors buy Eaton for the upcoming dividend? Eaton is paying out a reasonable percentage of its income and an uncomfortably high 115% of its cash flow as dividends. At least earnings per share have been growing steadily. With the way things are shaping up from a dividend perspective, we'd be inclined to steer clear of Eaton.
With that in mind though, if the poor dividend characteristics of Eaton don't faze you, it's worth being mindful of the risks involved with this business. To help with this, we've discovered 4 warning signs for Eaton (1 shouldn't be ignored!) that you ought to be aware of before buying the shares.
If you're in the market for strong dividend payers, we recommend checking our selection of top 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.
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