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Is It Smart To Buy Baxter International Inc. (NYSE:BAX) Before It Goes Ex-Dividend?

Simply Wall St

Regular readers will know that we love our dividends at Simply Wall St, which is why it's exciting to see Baxter International Inc. (NYSE:BAX) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 3 days. If you purchase the stock on or after the 29th of August, you won't be eligible to receive this dividend, when it is paid on the 1st of October.

Baxter International's next dividend payment will be US$0.22 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed US$0.88 to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Baxter International stock has a trailing yield of around 1.0% on the current share price of $85.03. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. That's why we should always check whether the dividend payments appear sustainable, and if the company is growing.

See our latest analysis for Baxter International

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. That's why it's good to see Baxter International paying out a modest 26% of its earnings. Yet cash flows are even more important than profits for assessing a dividend, so we need to see if the company generated enough cash to pay its distribution. It distributed 38% of its free cash flow as dividends, a comfortable payout level for most companies.

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.

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

NYSE:BAX Historical Dividend Yield, August 25th 2019

Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?

Companies with consistently growing earnings per share generally make the best dividend stocks, as they usually find it easier to grow dividends per share. If business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. That's why it's comforting to see Baxter International's earnings have been skyrocketing, up 39% per annum for the past five years. Earnings per share have been growing very quickly, and the company is paying out a relatively low percentage of its profit and cash flow. This is a very favourable combination that can often lead to the dividend multiplying over the long term, if earnings grow and the company pays out a higher percentage of its earnings.

Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. Baxter International has seen its dividend decline 1.7% per annum on average over the past 10 years, which is not great to see.

To Sum It Up

Has Baxter International got what it takes to maintain its dividend payments? It's great that Baxter International is growing earnings per share while simultaneously paying out a low percentage of both its earnings and cash flow. It's disappointing to see the dividend has been cut at least once in the past, but as things stand now, the low payout ratio suggests a conservative approach to dividends, which we like. Overall we think this is an attractive combination and worthy of further research.

Wondering what the future holds for Baxter International? See what the 17 analysts we track are forecasting, with this visualisation of its historical and future estimated earnings and cash flow

A common investment mistake is buying the first interesting stock you see. Here you can find a list of promising dividend stocks with a greater than 2% yield and an upcoming dividend.

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.