Yes, it can. In fact, many well-known Fortune 500 companies have paid dividends in years where they posted negative earnings per share!
When it comes to declaring and paying dividends, current earnings per share has nothing directly to do with whether a company is able to pay a dividend. Keep in mind that a company with a lower earnings per share (EPS) than its dividend in a current year may be coming off of a string of more profitable (high EPS) years, from which it has set aside cash to pay future dividends.

The only real numbers that matter in paying dividends are "retained earnings" and available cash. From a management point of view, retaining some of the shareholders' earnings quarterly or yearly makes a lot of sense. Having a large retained earnings balance allows a company to pay consistent dividends with no negative surprises. In addition, the company is able to keep cash on hand to reinvest in its future expansion.

On a related note, many investors do not realize that a company's earnings per share is calculated after the higher yielding preferred stock dividends have been paid. In other words, a large portion of a company's dividend costs already may be reflected in the EPS number that most investors look at.

For more on this topic, read Stocks Basics: Different Types of Stock and Types of EPS.

This question was answered by Ken Clark.

  1. Do mutual funds pay dividends?

    Depending on the specific assets in its portfolio, a mutual fund may generate income for shareholders in the form of capital ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Can working capital be too high?

    A company's working capital ratio can be too high in the sense that an excessively high ratio is generally considered an ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How often do mutual funds pay capital gains?

    The frequency with which mutual funds pay capital gains varies. However, funds that generate a profit within a given year ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Can dividends be paid out monthly?

    Though it is more common for dividends to be paid quarterly or annually, some stocks do pay monthly dividends. Dividends: ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Are dividends considered an asset?

    Whether dividends paid on stock are considered an asset depends on which role you play in the investment: the issuing company ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How do I use discounted cash flow (DCF) to value stock?

    Discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis can be a very helpful tool for analysts and investors in equity valuation. It provides ... Read Full Answer >>
Related Articles
  1. Investing

    Procter & Gamble Restructures, Sheds 100 Brands

    All businesses face adversity, and Procter & Gamble is no exception. We take a look at recent developments affecting this global giant.
  2. Investing

    Is GE One of the Best Dividend Stocks

    General Electric has a strong dividend history, but does it possess the three characteristics of one of the best dividend stocks?
  3. Investing Basics

    What Does In Specie Mean?

    In specie describes the distribution of an asset in its physical form instead of cash.
  4. Stock Analysis

    5 Cheap Dividend Stocks for a Bear Market

    Here are five stocks that pay safe dividends and should be at least somewhat resilient to a bear market.
  5. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    How to Find Mutual Funds With High Dividends

    Learn about the important factors to consider when looking for mutual funds that pay high dividends, including how they may impact your taxes.
  6. Investing

    What is Cumulative Preferred Stock?

    Cumulative preferred stock is a type of stock that stipulates any skipped or omitted dividends must be paid to its holders before common shareholders can receive dividends.
  7. Investing

    A Look at 6 Leading Female Value Investors

    In an industry still largely predominated by men, we look at 6 leading female value investors working today.
  8. Term

    What Is Financial Performance?

    Financial performance measures a firm’s ability to generate profits through the use of its assets.
  9. Stock Analysis

    The Biggest Risks of Investing in FireEye Stock

    Examine the current state of FireEye, Inc., and learn about some of the biggest risks of investing in this cybersecurity company's stock.
  10. Stock Analysis

    Exxon Mobil Stock: A Dividend Analysis

    Learn about Exxon's strong history of paying and growing dividends. Understand how the company's revenues are hurt by low commodity prices.
  1. Qualitative Analysis

    Securities analysis that uses subjective judgment based on nonquantifiable ...
  2. Profit and Loss Statement (P&L)

    A financial statement that summarizes the revenues, costs and ...
  3. Liquidity

    The degree to which an asset or security can be quickly bought ...
  4. Record Date

    The cut-off date established by a company in order to determine ...
  5. Real Estate Investment Trust - REIT

    A REIT is a type of security that invests in real estate through ...
  6. Profit Margin

    Profit margin is part of a category of profitability ratios calculated ...

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Zero-Sum Game

    A situation in which one person’s gain is equivalent to another’s loss, so that the net change in wealth or benefit is zero. ...
  2. Capitalization Rate

    The rate of return on a real estate investment property based on the income that the property is expected to generate.
  3. Gross Profit

    A company's total revenue (equivalent to total sales) minus the cost of goods sold. Gross profit is the profit a company ...
  4. Revenue

    The amount of money that a company actually receives during a specific period, including discounts and deductions for returned ...
  5. Normal Profit

    An economic condition occurring when the difference between a firm’s total revenue and total cost is equal to zero.
  6. Operating Cost

    Expenses associated with the maintenance and administration of a business on a day-to-day basis.
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!