Dividend Policy

What is Dividend Policy?

According to ICAI, New Delhi, “a dividend is a distribution to shareholders out of profits or reserves available for this purpose.”(Source: Guidance notes on ‘Terms used in Financial Statements’, ICAI)

The dividend declared by the board in annual general meeting (AGM). Quantum of the dividend depends on the company’s financial requirements and also depends on the availability of the divisible profits.


Meaning of Dividend Policy

For the financial manager of a company, it is crucial to take decision regarding to dividend because s/he have to determine about the amount of profit to be distributed among the shareholders and the amount of retained earnings. Amount of dividend and retained earnings have a reciprocal relationship. Market value of shares depends on the payout ratio. While taking the dividend decision the management takes into account the effect of the decision on the shareholders’ wealth.

A dividend policy is a company’s approach to distributing profits back to its owners or stockholders. If a company is in a growth mode, it may decide that it will not pay dividends, but rather re-invest its profits (retained earnings) in the business. If a company does decide to pay dividends, it must then decide how often to do so, and at what rate. Large, well-established companies often pay dividends on a fixed schedule, but sometimes they also declare “special dividends.” The payment of dividends impacts the perception of a company in financial markets, and it may also have a direct impact on its stock price. A company takes three major decisions i.e. Investments, financing and dividend. Dividend decision is most significant decision in all of these.


Determinants of Dividend Policy

The main determinants of dividend policy of a firm can be classified into:

  1. Capital Market Considerations: Capital market consideration is also a determinant of dividend policy. If the company has easy access to the capital market in such case company should follow a liberal dividend policy and if company has limited access to capital market, it can opt a low dividend payout ratio.

    Such companies rely on retained earnings as a major source of financing for future growth.


  2. Dividend Payout Ratio: Dividend payout ratio refers to the percentage of the net earnings distributed to the shareholders as dividends. On the basis of dividend policy owners of the company takes the decision to pay out earnings or to retain them for reinvestment in the firm. A sufficient amount of dividend creates satisfaction among the shareholders and the retained earnings constitute a source of finance.

    So, it is necessary that
    • dividend policy should maintain a balance between current dividends and future growth which maximizes the price of the firm’s shares and
    • The dividend payout ratio of a firm should be optimum so that firm can able to maximize the wealth of the firm’s owners and providing sufficient funds to finance growth.


  3. Legal, Contractual and Internal Constraints and Restrictions: A company is not legally bounded for declaration of dividend but, they have to specify the conditions under which dividends must be paid.

    Such conditions pertain to capital impairment, net profits and insolvency. It may be that a company accepts important contractual restrictions (when the company obtains external funds) in respect of payment of dividends.

    These restrictions may cause the firm to restrict the payment of cash dividends until a certain level of earnings has been achieved or limit the amount of dividends paid to a certain amount or percentage of earnings.

    Internal constraints are unique to a firm and include liquid assets, growth prospects, financial requirements, availability of funds, earnings stability and control.


  4. Inflation: In case of situation of inflation, the funds generated from depreciation may not be sufficient to replace obsolete equipments and machinery. In such situation, a company should rely upon retained earnings as a source of fund to replace those assets. Thus, dividend payout ratio negatively affected due to inflation.


  5. Age of Corporation: A newly establish company will invest their earning for expansion and plant improvement and may adopt a rigid dividend policy. But if company is well established, it can frame a more consistent policy in respect of dividend. So, we can say that dividend policy is also affected by the age of the corporation.


  6. Stability of Earnings: If a company having stability of earnings, such company can maintain consistency in its dividend policy. Stability of earnings depends on nature of business e.g. firms dealing in luxurious or fancy goods can earn more profits. So, we can say that the nature of business has an important bearing on the dividend policy.


  7. Requirement of Additional Capital: In case of small companies, they face the difficulties of additional finance for expansion programs. Every company retains a part of their profits for strengthening their financial position. Thus, such Companies distribute dividend at low rates and retain a big part of profits


  8. Liquidity of Funds: If a company decides to pay dividend in cash then it may be only if company has sufficient funds. So, availability of cash and sound financial position is equally affected to dividend policy. Payment of dividend represents a cash outflow. More availability of funds and good liquidity position of company show the better ability to pay dividend. If cash position is weak, stock dividend will be distributed and if cash position is good, company can distribute the cash dividend.


  9. Trade Cycles: Business cycles also exercise influence upon dividend Policy. Dividend policy is adjusted according to the business oscillations. During the boom, prudent management creates food reserves for contingencies which follow the inflationary period.

    Higher rates of dividend can be used as a tool for marketing the securities in an otherwise depressed market. The financial solvency can be proved and maintained by the companies in dull years if the adequate reserves have been built up.


  10. Government Policies: Fiscal, industrial, taxation etc. affect to the earnings capacity of the enterprise. The dividend policy has to be modified according to the changes in government policies.


  11. Taxation Policy: Taxation policy of government also affects the decision of distribution of dividend. In case of high taxation rate a major part of earnings will be paid to government by way of tax, hence rate of dividend will be lowered down. In case of low taxation, the company will be able to pay dividend at higher rate.


  12. Policy of Control: Policy of control is another determining factor is so far as dividends are concerned. If the directors want to have control on company, they would not like to add new shareholders and therefore, declare a dividend at low rate.

    Because by adding new shareholders they fear dilution of control and diversion of policies and programs of the existing management. So they prefer to meet the needs through retained earnings.

    If the directors do not bother about the control of affairs they will follow a liberal dividend policy. Thus control is an influencing factor in framing the dividend policy.


  13. Legal Requirements: The companies’ act 1956 prescribes guidelines in respect of declaration and payment of dividend. These guidelines issued in order to protect the interest of creditors e.g. a company is required to provide for depreciation on its fixed and tangible assets before declaring dividend on shares. It proposes that Dividend should not be distributed out of capita, in any case.

Types of Dividend

Dividend on the Basis of Security

There are two types of securities on which company pays dividend i.e. 1) Preference shares 2) Equity shares. Company pays following two types dividend on these securities:

  • Preference Dividend: On preference Share Company pays dividend at fix rate. At the time of issue of preference shares, company declares the rate of dividend on these shares. Since dividend on these shares is fixed, so, mostly discussion on dividend policy is relates to the equity dividend.

  • Equity Dividend: In case of equity shares the rate of dividend cannot be pre determined. Dividend on equity shares is paid at the rate recommended by the board of directors and approved by the shareholders in Annual General Meeting (AGM). The board of directors has the right in respect of payment of dividend, the rate of dividend and the medium of dividend.

Dividend on the Basis of Time

On the basis of time, there are two types of dividend

  • Interim Dividend: When a company earns huge profits or we can say that abnormal profits during any particular year and directors wish to distribute these profits among the shareholders, then company declares dividend at any time between two AGM.

    It is called interim dividend. In other words, we can say that interim dividend is the dividend which can be declare and distribute at any time within the financial year. Interim dividend may be declare if, Article of association permits for it.

    Interim dividend is an extra dividend paid in cash within the year without requirement of approval in AGM.

  • Regular Dividend- It is annual dividend declares after approval in AGM. This dividend pays by the company after completion of financial year. The rate of dividend depends on the financial performance of the company in particular year.

Dividend on the Basis of Mode of Payment

On the basis of mode of payment, dividend may be classified in following three categories

  • Cash Dividend: Mostly, shareholders are interested in cash dividend. When company pays dividend in cash, it indicates outflows of cash from company to its shareholders. Company pays cash dividend out of current sources available in the company or by taking short term loans from banks and other financial institutions.

    A company may take decision of cash payment of dividend, when sufficient funds are available and liquidity position of company is sound. Cash dividend is most desirable mode of payment of dividend. It built confidence and faith in investor’s mind about company.


  • Stock Dividend: If any company has a huge amount of reserves & surplus but suffering from problem of shortage of liquidity of funds. In such case, if company wants to distribute reserves & surplus among the shareholders, then the company issue new shares to existing shareholders at free of cost. Shareholders receive shares In place of cash dividend.

    Such shares are known as “Bonus shares” or “Stock dividend”. In this process whole or a part of profits converts into share capital, so, it also called as “Capitalisation of profits”.


  • Scrip or Bond Dividend: If any company is facing a financial crisis, in such circumstances company pays dividend in the form of shares and debentures of other companies. This form of dividend is called as scrip or bond dividend. The main difference of scrip dividend and bond dividend is of time period.

    In case of scrip dividend, securities belong to short term securities and in case of bond dividend it is long term securities.

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