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Dividend growth investing is lots of fun, especially if you have a systematic methodology to determining which companies' dividends are safe and which aren't. That is why we created a forward-looking assessment of dividend safety in our predictive dividend-cut indicator, the Valuentum Dividend Cushion™. In this article, let's evaluate the investment merits of Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) as well as its dividend under this unique but yet very straightforward framework.

Bristol-Myers Squibb's Investment Considerations

Bristol-Myers Squibb's Return on Invested Capital

Bristol-Myers Squibb's Dividend

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Bristol-Myers Squibb's dividend yield is excellent, offering just under a 4% annual payout at recent price levels. We prefer yields above 3% and don't include firms with yields below 2% in our dividend growth portfolio. So Bristol-Myers Squibb fits the bill thus far.

We think the safety of Bristol-Myers Squibb's dividend is good (please see our definitions at the bottom of this article). We measure the safety of the dividend in a unique but very straightforward fashion. As many know, earnings can fluctuate in any given year, so using the payout ratio in any given year has some limitations. Plus, companies can often encounter unforeseen charges, which makes earnings an even less-than-predictable measure of the safety of the dividend in any given year. We know that companies won't cut the dividend just because earnings have declined or they had a restructuring charge that put them in the red for the quarter (year). As such, we think that assessing the cash flows of a business allows us to determine whether it has the capacity to continue paying these cash outlays well into the future.

That has led us to develop the forward-looking Valuentum Dividend Cushion™. The measure is a ratio that sums the existing cash a company has on hand plus its expected future free cash flows over the next five years and divides that sum by future expected dividends over the same time period. Basically, if the score is above 1, the company has the capacity to pay out its expected future dividends. As income investors, however, we'd like to see a score much larger than 1 for a couple of reasons: 1) the higher the ratio, the more "cushion" the company has against unexpected earnings shortfalls, and 2) the higher the ratio, the greater capacity a dividend-payer has in boosting the dividend in the future.

For Bristol-Myers Squibb, this score is 2.3, revealing that on its current path the firm can cover its future dividends with net cash on hand and future free cash flow over 2 times.

Now on to the potential growth of Bristol-Myers Squibb's dividend. As we mentioned above, we think the larger the "cushion" the larger capacity it has to raise the dividend. However, such dividend growth analysis is not complete until after considering management's willingness to increase the dividend. To do so, we evaluate the company's historical dividend track record. If there have been no dividend cuts in 10 years, the company has a nice growth rate, and a nice dividend cushion, its future potential dividend growth would be excellent, which is not the case for Bristol-Myers Squibb. We have them rated as having good growth potential, as the pace of dividend growth in recent years has been mediocre.

And because capital preservation is also an important consideration, we assess the risk associated with the potential for capital loss (offering investors a complete picture). In Bristol-Myers Squibb's case, we currently think the shares are fairly valued, so the risk of capital loss is medium, in our view. If we thought the shares were undervalued, the risk of capital loss would be low. All things considered, we like the potential growth and safety of Bristol-Myers Squibb's dividend, and we think it stands out to us as one of the better income plays on the market today.

Source: Taking A Close Look At Bristol-Myers' Dividend