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Here's How We Evaluate United Parcel Service, Inc.'s (NYSE:UPS) Dividend

Simply Wall St

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Could United Parcel Service, Inc. ( NYSE:UPS ) be an attractive dividend share to own for the long haul? Investors are often drawn to strong companies with the idea of reinvesting the dividends. Yet sometimes, investors buy a popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for United Parcel Service. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 0.9% of market capitalisation this year. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying United Parcel Service for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NYSE:UPS Historical Dividend Yield, June 17th 2019

Payout ratios

Dividends are usually paid out of company earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Looking at the data, we can see that 70% of United Parcel Service's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. This is a healthy payout ratio, and while it does limit the amount of earnings that can be reinvested in the business, there is also some room to lift the payout ratio over time.

We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. United Parcel Service paid out 66% of its free cash flow last year, which is acceptable, but is starting to limit the amount of earnings that can be reinvested into the business. It's encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don't drop precipitously.

We update our data on United Parcel Service every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

Dividend Volatility

One of the major risks of relying on dividend income, is the potential for a company to struggle financially and cut its dividend. Not only is your income cut, but the value of your investment declines as well - nasty. United Parcel Service has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. The dividend has been stable over the past 10 years, which is great. We think this could suggest some resilience to the business and its dividends. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$1.80 in 2009, compared to US$3.84 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 7.9% per year over this time.

Businesses that can grow their dividends at a decent rate and maintain a stable payout can generate substantial wealth for shareholders over the long term.

Dividend Growth Potential

Dividend payments have been consistent over the past few years, but we should always check if earnings per share (EPS) are growing, as this will help maintain the purchasing power of the dividend. United Parcel Service has grown its earnings per share at 2.5% per annum over the past five years. Growth of 2.5% is relatively anaemic growth, which we wonder about. When a business is not growing, it often makes more sense to pay higher dividends to shareholders rather than retain the cash with no way to utilise it.

Conclusion

Dividend investors should always want to know if a) a company's dividends are affordable, b) if there is a track record of consistent payments, and c) if the dividend is capable of growing. First, we think United Parcel Service is paying out an acceptable percentage of its cashflow and profit. Earnings growth has been limited, but we like that the dividend payments have been fairly consistent. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than United Parcel Service out there.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 23 United Parcel Service analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company .

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 3%.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

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. Thank you for reading.