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This is Why Atmos Energy (ATO) is a Great Dividend Stock

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Getting big returns from financial portfolios, whether through stocks, bonds, ETFs, other securities, or a combination of all, is an investor's dream. However, when you're an income investor, your primary focus is generating consistent cash flow from each of your liquid investments.

Cash flow can come from bond interest, interest from other types of investments, and of course, dividends. A dividend is the distribution of a company's earnings paid out to shareholders; it's often viewed by its dividend yield, a metric that measures a dividend as a percent of the current stock price. Many academic studies show that dividends make up large portions of long-term returns, and in many cases, dividend contributions surpass one-third of total returns.

Atmos Energy in Focus

Based in Dallas, Atmos Energy (ATO - Free Report) is in the Utilities sector, and so far this year, shares have seen a price change of 4.09%. Currently paying a dividend of $0.68 per share, the company has a dividend yield of 2.74%. In comparison, the Utility - Gas Distribution industry's yield is 2.95%, while the S&P 500's yield is 1.38%.

In terms of dividend growth, the company's current annualized dividend of $2.72 is up 8.8% from last year. Over the last 5 years, Atmos Energy has increased its dividend 5 times on a year-over-year basis for an average annual increase of 8.29%. Any future dividend growth will depend on both earnings growth and the company's payout ratio; a payout ratio is the proportion of a firm's annual earnings per share that it pays out as a dividend. Atmos's current payout ratio is 48%, meaning it paid out 48% of its trailing 12-month EPS as dividend.

ATO is expecting earnings to expand this fiscal year as well. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2021 is $5.47 per share, with earnings expected to increase 6.84% from the year ago period.

Bottom Line

Investors like dividends for a variety of different reasons, from tax advantages and decreasing overall portfolio risk to considerably improving stock investing profits. It's important to keep in mind that not all companies provide a quarterly payout.

Big, established firms that have more secure profits are often seen as the best dividend options, but it's fairly uncommon to see high-growth businesses or tech start-ups offer their stockholders a dividend. Income investors have to be mindful of the fact that high-yielding stocks tend to struggle during periods of rising interest rates. That said, they can take comfort from the fact that ATO is not only an attractive dividend play, but is also a compelling investment opportunity with a Zacks Rank of #2 (Buy).


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