Don't Race Out To Buy IRESS Limited (ASX:IRE) Just Because It's Going Ex-Dividend

Simply Wall St

IRESS Limited (ASX:IRE) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 2 days. This means that investors who purchase shares on or after the 26th of February will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 20th of March.

IRESS's next dividend payment will be AU$0.30 per share, on the back of last year when the company paid a total of AU$0.46 to shareholders. Calculating the last year's worth of payments shows that IRESS has a trailing yield of 3.7% on the current share price of A$12.33. If you buy this business for its dividend, you should have an idea of whether IRESS'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.

Check out our latest analysis for IRESS

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. IRESS distributed an unsustainably high 121% of its profit as dividends to shareholders last year. Without more sustainable payment behaviour, the dividend looks precarious. 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. It paid out 83% of its free cash flow as dividends, which is within usual limits but will limit the company's ability to lift the dividend if there's no growth.

It's good to see that while IRESS's dividends were not covered by profits, at least they are affordable from a cash perspective. Still, if the company repeatedly paid a dividend greater than its profits, we'd be concerned. Very few companies are able to sustainably pay dividends larger than their reported earnings.

Click here to see the company's payout ratio, plus analyst estimates of its future dividends.

ASX:IRE Historical Dividend Yield, February 22nd 2020

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 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 IRESS, with earnings per share up 3.2% on average over the last five years.

Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. In the last ten years, IRESS has lifted its dividend by approximately 4.0% a year on average. It's encouraging to see the company lifting dividends while earnings are growing, suggesting at least some corporate interest in rewarding shareholders.

Final Takeaway

Should investors buy IRESS for the upcoming dividend? While earnings per share have been growing slowly, IRESS is paying out an uncomfortably high percentage of its earnings. However it did pay out a lower percentage of its cashflow. Bottom line: IRESS has some unfortunate characteristics that we think could lead to sub-optimal outcomes for dividend investors.

Ever wonder what the future holds for IRESS? See what the seven analysts we track are forecasting, with this visualisation of its historical and future estimated earnings and cash flow

If you're in the market for dividend stocks, we recommend checking our list of top dividend stocks with a greater than 2% yield and an upcoming dividend.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned.

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