It looks like Oracle Corporation (NYSE:ORCL) is about to go ex-dividend in the next 3 days. You will need to purchase shares before the 8th of January to receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 23rd of January.
Oracle’s next dividend payment will be US$0.24 per share, and in the last 12 months, the company paid a total of US$0.96 per share. Calculating the last year’s worth of payments shows that Oracle has a trailing yield of 1.8% on the current share price of $53.76. If you buy this business for its dividend, you should have an idea of whether Oracle’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.
If a company pays out more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable – hardly an ideal situation. Fortunately Oracle’s payout ratio is modest, at just 28% of profit. Yet cash flow is typically more important than profit for assessing dividend sustainability, so we should always check if the company generated enough cash to afford its dividend. Luckily it paid out just 25% of its free cash flow last year.
It’s positive to see that Oracle’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. If earnings fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. With that in mind, we’re encouraged by the steady growth at Oracle, with earnings per share up 6.1% on average over the last five years. The company is retaining more than half of its earnings within the business, and it has been growing earnings at a decent rate. We think this is generally an attractive combination, as dividends can grow through a combination of earnings growth and or a higher payout ratio over time.
Another key way to measure a company’s dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. Oracle has delivered an average of 17% per year annual increase in its dividend, based on the past ten years of dividend payments. It’s encouraging to see the company lifting dividends while earnings are growing, suggesting at least some corporate interest in rewarding shareholders.
To Sum It Up
From a dividend perspective, should investors buy or avoid Oracle? Earnings per share growth has been growing somewhat, and Oracle is paying out less than half its earnings and cash flow as dividends. This is interesting for a few reasons, as it suggests management may be reinvesting heavily in the business, but it also provides room to increase the dividend in time. It might be nice to see earnings growing faster, but Oracle is being conservative with its dividend payouts and could still perform reasonably over the long run. It’s a promising combination that should mark this company worthy of closer attention.