Regular readers will know that we love our dividends at Simply Wall St, which is why it's exciting to see Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 4 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 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. Accordingly, Comcast investors that purchase the stock on or after the 3rd of October will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 25th of October.
The company's upcoming dividend is US$0.29 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of US$1.16 per share to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Comcast stock has a trailing yield of around 2.6% on the current share price of $44.6. If you buy this business for its dividend, you should have an idea of whether Comcast's dividend is reliable and sustainable. That's why we should always check whether the dividend payments appear sustainable, and if the company is growing.
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. Comcast is paying out an acceptable 73% of its profit, a common payout level among most companies. A useful secondary check can be to evaluate whether Comcast generated enough free cash flow to afford its dividend. It distributed 41% of its free cash flow as dividends, a comfortable payout level for most companies.
It's positive to see that Comcast'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?
Businesses with shrinking earnings are tricky from a dividend perspective. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. With that in mind, we're discomforted by Comcast's 20% per annum decline in earnings in the past five years. Such a sharp decline casts doubt on the future sustainability of the dividend.
Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. Comcast has delivered 14% dividend growth per year on average over the past 10 years. Growing the dividend payout ratio while earnings are declining can deliver nice returns for a while, but it's always worth checking for when the company can't increase the payout ratio any more - because then the music stops.
Is Comcast an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? The payout ratios are within a reasonable range, implying the dividend may be sustainable. Declining earnings are a serious concern, however, and could pose a threat to the dividend in future. All things considered, we are not particularly enthused about Comcast from a dividend perspective.
If you're not too concerned about Comcast's ability to pay dividends, you should still be mindful of some of the other risks that this business faces. Our analysis shows 3 warning signs for Comcast and you should be aware of these before buying any shares.
Generally, we wouldn't recommend just buying the first dividend stock you see. Here's a curated list of interesting stocks that are strong dividend payers.
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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.