Some investors rely on dividends for growing their wealth, and if you’re one of those dividend sleuths, you might be intrigued to know that Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT) is about to go ex-dividend in just 4 days. The ex-dividend date is usually set to be one business day before the record date which is the cut-off date on which you must be present on the company’s books as a shareholder in order to receive the dividend. It is important to be aware of the ex-dividend date because any trade on the stock needs to have been settled on or before the record date. In other words, investors can purchase Target’s shares before the 17th of May in order to be eligible for the dividend, which will be paid on the 10th of June.

The company’s next dividend payment will be US$0.90 per share, and in the last 12 months, the company paid a total of US$3.60 per share. Last year’s total dividend payments show that Target has a trailing yield of 1.7% on the current share price of $213.49. Dividends are an important source of income to many shareholders, but the health of the business is crucial to maintaining those dividends. We need to see whether the dividend is covered by earnings and if it’s growing.

Check out our latest analysis for Target

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. Target has a low and conservative payout ratio of just 22% of its income after tax. A useful secondary check can be to evaluate whether Target generated enough free cash flow to afford its dividend. Fortunately, it paid out only 30% of its free cash flow in the past year.

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.

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Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?

Businesses with strong growth prospects usually make the best dividend payers, because it’s easier to grow dividends when earnings per share are improving. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. That’s why it’s comforting to see Target’s earnings have been skyrocketing, up 27% 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.

Another key way to measure a company’s dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. Target has delivered an average of 12% per year annual increase in its dividend, based on the past 10 years of dividend payments. Both per-share earnings and dividends have both been growing rapidly in recent times, which is great to see.

The Bottom Line

Has Target got what it takes to maintain its dividend payments? We love that Target is growing earnings per share while simultaneously paying out a low percentage of both its earnings and cash flow. These characteristics suggest the company is reinvesting in growing its business, while the conservative payout ratio also implies a reduced risk of the dividend being cut in the future. Target looks solid on this analysis overall, and we’d definitely consider investigating it more closely.

With that in mind, a critical part of thorough stock research is being aware of any risks that stock currently faces. For example, we’ve found 2 warning signs for Target that we recommend you consider before investing in the business.

If you’re in the market for strong dividend payers, we recommend checking our selection of top dividend stocks.

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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.