Suncor Energy's Dividend Is Safe

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Dividend investors know that it pays to follow how much of a company's money goes toward funding its payouts. A nice yield now won't matter much if the company can't keep making those payments going forward.

Here, we'll highlight a given company and its closest competitors to see just how safe their dividends are, with a little help from three crucial tools:

  • The interest coverage ratio, or earnings before interest and taxes, divided by interest expense. The interest coverage ratio measures a company's ability to pay the interest on its debt. An interest coverage ratio less than 1.5 is questionable; a number less than 1 means that the company is not bringing in enough money to cover its interest expenses.
  • The EPS payout ratio, or dividends per share divided by earnings per share. The EPS payout ratio measures the percentage of earnings that go toward paying the dividend. A ratio greater than 80% is worrisome.
  • The FCF payout ratio, or dividends per share divided by free cash flow per share. Earnings alone don't always paint a complete picture of a business' health. The FCF payout ratio measures the percentage of free cash flow devoted toward paying the dividend. Again, a ratio greater than 80% could be a red flag.

Each of these ratios reflect dividends paid in the trailing 12 months; yields are the expected forward yield. Let's examine  Suncor Energy (NYS: SU) and three of its peers.

Company

Yield

Interest Coverage

EPS Payout Ratio

FCF Payout Ratio

Suncor Energy1.5%20.416.9%NA
ExxonMobil (NYS: XOM) 2.4%210.223.6%48.3%
Chesapeake Energy (NYS: CHK) 1.3%72.320.7%NA
Encana (NYS: ECA) 4%1.681.6%NA

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

With an interest coverage of 20.4, Suncor covers every $1 in interest expenses with $20 in operating earnings. While its EPS payout ratio is below 20%, its FCF payout ratio is negative, as the company has been investing more cash than it's been bringing in. That's unsustainable as is, but the situation should reverse itself in the future as the drilling investments the company is making now pay off.

Another tool for better investing
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At the time this article was published FollowDan Dzombakon Twitter at@DanDzombakto check out his musings and see what articles he finds interesting.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Chesapeake Energy. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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