If you're buying Disney (NYSE:DIS) these days, it's not for the pocket change. The media giant suspended its semiannual dividend in May. It announced earlier this month that it will also be nixing its next semiannual payout. 

Asking if Disney is a great dividend stock -- when it's now been nearly a year since shareholders have received a distribution check -- might seem cruel. However, Disney emphasized during its earnings call two weeks ago that the payout disruption isn't permanent.

The House of Mouse will get back to returning money to its shareholders, probably as soon as next year. It's just like any hero in a Disney animated feature at this point: We're going on a transformative journey here, and how things appear now aren't how they'll be later on. 

Donald Duck sweeping Main Street U.S.A. with a broom.

Image source: Getty Images.

Be prepared 

"We anticipate the payment of a dividend will remain a part of our long-term capital allocation strategy following the return to a normalized operating environment," Disney CFO Christine McCarthy said during the company's fiscal fourth-quarter earnings call two weeks ago.

The dividend isn't prudent right now for a couple of reasons. The biggest reason, naturally, is that there are still plenty of near-term uncertainties across a variety of Disney's most important businesses. Disneyland in California remains closed, and the other parks have yet to turn the corner of profitability since unlocking their turnstiles this summer. Disney cruise ships aren't setting sail until some point in 2021. Folks aren't going to the movies, so Disney has pulled its theatrical releases for the time being.

Disney just posted a quarterly loss on a 23% plunge in revenue for its latest quarter. Holding back on $1.6 billion in semiannual distributions -- or $3.2 billion over the past year -- gives it the flexibility to get through its near-term shortcomings.

Another important reason is that it's better off investing in its future right now than returning money to its shareholders. McCarthy explains that its capital-allocation strategy is going to prioritize its booming Disney+ and other direct-to-consumer initiatives. Content is king, and Disney wants to make sure that its newfound royalty in this space after a monster rookie year for Disney+ isn't a fluke. 

The third strong argument for a pause to the payouts right now is that the optics would be terrible. Disney has laid off a lot of people since the pandemic. From Disney's theme parks to even ESPN, the pink slips have been raining at the media giant. If shareholders are getting paid at this time, it's not a good look.

Disney knows what it's doing. Income investors might not be happy right now, but it's not as if they're missing out on big distributions. The stock would be yielding a mere 1.2% right now, based on its earlier rate.

Capital appreciation has always been the outlet of choice for rewarding its stakeholders. Disney is not technically a dividend stock right now, but it's a great investment that will return to its payouts as soon as feasibly possible. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.