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Don't Buy Mercury General Corporation (NYSE:MCY) For Its Next Dividend Without Doing These Checks

It looks like Mercury General Corporation (NYSE:MCY) is about to go ex-dividend in the next 4 days. The ex-dividend date is usually set to be one business day before the record date which is the cut-off date on which you must be present on the company's books as a shareholder in order to receive the 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. Thus, you can purchase Mercury General's shares before the 14th of December in order to receive the dividend, which the company will pay on the 29th of December.

The company's upcoming dividend is US$0.32 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of US$1.27 per share to shareholders. Last year's total dividend payments show that Mercury General has a trailing yield of 3.5% on the current share price of $36.2. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. So we need to investigate whether Mercury General can afford its dividend, and if the dividend could grow.

View our latest analysis for Mercury General

Dividends are usually paid out of company profits, so if a company pays out more than it earned then its dividend is usually at greater risk of being cut. Mercury General reported a loss after tax last year, which means it's paying a dividend despite being unprofitable. While this might be a one-off event, this is unlikely to be sustainable in the long term.

Click here to see how much of its profit Mercury General paid out over the last 12 months.

historic-dividend
historic-dividend

Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?

Companies with falling earnings are riskier for dividend shareholders. If business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. Mercury General reported a loss last year, and the general trend suggests its earnings have also been declining in recent years, making us wonder if the dividend is at risk.

Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. Mercury General has seen its dividend decline 6.3% per annum on average over the past 10 years, which is not great to see. While it's not great that earnings and dividends per share have fallen in recent years, we're encouraged by the fact that management has trimmed the dividend rather than risk over-committing the company in a risky attempt to maintain yields to shareholders.

We update our analysis on Mercury General every 24 hours, so you can always get the latest insights on its financial health, here.

To Sum It Up

Is Mercury General worth buying for its dividend? It's definitely not great to see that it paid a dividend despite reporting a loss last year. Worse, the general trend in its earnings looks negative in recent times. These characteristics don't generally lead to outstanding dividend performance, and investors may not be happy with the results of owning this stock for its dividend.

With that in mind though, if the poor dividend characteristics of Mercury General don't faze you, it's worth being mindful of the risks involved with this business. In terms of investment risks, we've identified 1 warning sign with Mercury General and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

A common investing mistake is buying the first interesting stock you see. Here you can find a full list of high-yield dividend stocks.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

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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