By Marc Lichtenfeld, Chief Income Strategist, Cashflow For Retirement
Dear Cashflow For Retirement Reader,
Telecom giants are reliable when it comes to paying dividends. Investors in companies like AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) typically have nothing to worry about.
But sometimes the smaller ones can cause investors a bit of agita.
Canada-based Telus (NYSE: TU) pays a 4.2% yield on its ADRs traded in the United States.
It has an impressive dividend growth history, boosting the payout every year for 15 years. And starting in 2011, the company said it planned to raise the dividend 7% to 10% per year, a vow it renewed in 2013 and in 2016.
Typically, we look at free cash flow to determine if a company can afford its dividend. Telus generated CA$141 million in free cash flow in 2016, but it paid out CA$1.1 billion in dividends. That’s not good.
In 2015, free cash flow was CA$1.1 billion, but it paid out CA$992 million.
Free cash flow was lower last year due to restructuring charges, lower profits, and higher capital expenditures.
In 2017, cash flow is expected to grow. But it won’t be high enough to pay the dividend yet again.
It’s hard to imagine management would announce a dividend growth program if it wasn’t confident that it would be able to pay the larger dividend—especially with a 15-year track record of dividend hikes.
The decade and a half of history gives management the benefit of the doubt in my book. So I’m not too worried that the company is going to cut the dividend in the next year.
But keep an eye on the numbers. SafetyNet Pro is telling us that there is reason for concern. If cash flow doesn’t get back above the amount paid in dividends by next year, I would start to get worried.
Dividend Safety Rating: D
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