A word of caution on Altria’s dividend growth
With payouts absorbing almost all the company’s free cash flow, investors should be wary
Shares of tobacco producer Altria Group, formerly Phillip Morris, has had an extraordinary run of yields from high dividend pay outs, and is still yielding around 3.5%, despite the fact it is trading near its highs.
But, as Josh Arnold writes at Seeking Alpha, the run of dividend increases probably won’t last forever. To keep investors happy with the high pay outs, Altria has been burning through 95% of its free cash flow, which means less cash spent on acquisitions and buybacks, and more dependence on temporary sources of income such as asset sales.
Moving forward, the firm is going to have to get creative to finance these payouts, and, with FCF usage at 95%, investors need to be on the lookout for faltering FCF or significant payout rises.