Readers hoping to buy STERIS plc (NYSE:STE) for its dividend will need to make their move shortly, as the stock is about to trade ex-dividend. 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 important as the process of settlement involves two full business days. So if you miss that date, you would not show up on the company's books on the record date. This means that investors who purchase STERIS' shares on or after the 21st of November will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 16th of December.
The company's upcoming dividend is US$0.47 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of US$1.88 per share to shareholders. Looking at the last 12 months of distributions, STERIS has a trailing yield of approximately 1.1% on its current stock price of $166.34. If you buy this business for its dividend, you should have an idea of whether STERIS's dividend is reliable and sustainable. So we need to investigate whether STERIS can afford its dividend, and if the dividend could grow.
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. STERIS lost money last year, so the fact that it's paying a dividend is certainly disconcerting. There might be a good reason for this, but we'd want to look into it further before getting comfortable. With the recent loss, it's important to check if the business generated enough cash to pay its dividend. If STERIS didn't generate enough cash to pay the dividend, then it must have either paid from cash in the bank or by borrowing money, neither of which is sustainable in the long term. Fortunately, it paid out only 44% of its free cash flow in the past year.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Companies with falling earnings are riskier for dividend shareholders. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. STERIS 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.
The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. STERIS has delivered an average of 11% per year annual increase in its dividend, based on the past 10 years of dividend payments.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of STERIS's financial health, by checking our visualisation of its financial health, here.
From a dividend perspective, should investors buy or avoid STERIS? It's hard to get used to STERIS paying a dividend despite reporting a loss over the past year. At least the dividend was covered by free cash flow, however. It's not an attractive combination from a dividend perspective, and we're inclined to pass on this one for the time being.
Having said that, if you're looking at this stock without much concern for the dividend, you should still be familiar of the risks involved with STERIS. Our analysis shows 1 warning sign for STERIS and you should be aware of it before buying any 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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