Dividend Payout Decision Making Process
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Published: Wed, 28 Feb 2018
Dividend policy is an important component of the corporate financial management policy. It is a policy used by the firm to decide as to how much cash it should reinvest in its business through expansion or share repurchases and how much to pay out to its shareholders in dividends. Dividend is a payment or return made by the firm to the shareholders, (owners of the company) out of its earnings in the form of cash. For a long time, the subject of corporate dividend policy has captivated the interests of many academicians and researchers, resulting in the emergence of a number of theoretical explanations for dividend policy. For the investors, dividend serve as an important indicator of the strength and future prosperity of the business, thereby companies try to maintain a stable dividend because if they reduce their dividend payments, investors may suspect that the company is facing a cash flow problem. Investors prefer steady growth of dividends every year and are reluctant to investment to companies with fluctuating dividend policy. Over time, there has been a substantial increase in the number of factors identified in the literature as being important to be considered in making dividend decisions. Thus, extensive studies have been done to find out various factors affecting dividend payout ratio of a firm. However, there is no single explanation that can capture the puzzling reality of corporate dividend behavior. Ocean deep judgment is involved by decision makers to resolve this issue of dividend behavior. The decision of companies to retain or pay out the earnings in form of dividends is important for the maximization of the value of the firm (Oyejide, 1976). Therefore, companies should set a constructive target dividend payout ratio, where it pays dividends to its shareholders and at the same time maintains sufficient retained earnings as to avoid having raise funds by borrowing money.
A tough challenge was faced by financial practitioners and many academics, when Miller and Modigliani (M&M) (1961) came with a proposition that, given perfect capital markets, the dividend decision does not affect the firm value and is, therefore, irrelevant. This proposition was greeted with surprise because at that time it was universally acknowledged by both theorists and corporate managers that the firm can enhance its business value by providing for a more generous dividend policy and that a properly managed dividend policy had an impact on share prices and shareholder wealth. Since the M&M study, many researchers have relaxed the assumption of perfect capital markets and stated theories about how managers should formulate dividend policy decisions.
Dividend policy has attracted a substantial amount of research by many researchers and theorists, who have provided theoretical as well as empirical observations, into the dividend puzzle (Black, 1976). Even though researchers and theorists have extended their studies in context to dividend decisions, the issue as to why corporations distribute a portion of their earnings as dividends is not yet resolved. The issue of dividend policy has stimulated much debate among financial analysts since Lintner’s (1956) seminal work. He measured major changes in earnings as the key determinant of the companies’ dividend decisions. There are many factors that affect dividend decisions of a firm as it is very difficult to lay down an optimum dividend policy which would maximize the long-run wealth of the shareholders resulting into increase or decrease of the firm’s value, but the primary indicator of the firm’s capacity to pay dividends has been Profits.
Miller and Modigliani (1961), DeAngelo and DeAngelo (2006) gave their proposition on the dividend irrelevance, but the argument made by them was on assumptions that weren’t practical and in fact, the dividend payout decision does affect the shareholders value.
The study focuses on identifying various determinants of dividend payout and whether these factors influence the dividend payout decision.
There are many theories in the corporate finance literature addressing the dividend issue. The purpose of study is to understand the factors influencing the dividend decision of companies. The specific objectives of this study are:
- To analyze the financials of the company, to draw a framework of factors such as Retained earnings, Age of the company, Debt to Equity, Cash, Net income, Earnings per share etc. responsible for dividend declaration.
- To understand the criticality of a company’s profitability (in terms of Earnings per share) component in declaration of dividends.
- To measure each factor individually on how it affects the dividend decision.
RQ1. What is the relation between dividend payout and firm’s debt?
RQ2. What is the relation between dividend payout and Profitability?
RQ3. What is the relation between dividend payout and liquidity?
RQ4. What is the relation between dividend payout and Retained Earnings?
RQ5. What is the relation between dividend payout and Net Income?
Contribution of the Study:
Dividend decision is an important financial decision made by firms, managers, and investors. This study aims to contribute to the corporate finance literature, by looking at the Dividend puzzle. An attempt is made to make a valuable contribution in two major ways:
- Theoretical and Empirical approach is taken to provide a comprehensive view on the subject.
- The empirical Approach taken in this study will definitely leave some promising future ideas.
- The empirical findings and conclusions contained in this study can be used by financial managers to inform dividend decisions.
Limitations of Study:
The areas of concern to investigate in this study are extensive. Due to the Time constraint and accessibility of data, the research will be limited to the following:
- The period of study is only three years 2006 to 2008.
- The research has considered only those firms who pay dividends.
- The study is focused only on firms trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Structure of the Paper:
The remaining chapters will be organized as follows:
Chapter Two: Literature Review
This chapter discusses the different theories laid down in context to dividend policy and explains the relationship between dividend payout and its determinants as concluded by the study of different researchers and theorists.
Chapter Three: Research Methodology
This chapter explains the research hypothesis and gives a descriptive study of the techniques and the model used for data analysis. The application of the statistical tests used are explained thoroughly.
Chapter four: Data Analysis and Findings
To address the research questions, results obtained from the regression analysis will be evaluated and discussed in this chapter.
Chapter five: Recommendations and Conclusion.
This chapter Concludes the entire study and provides recommendations based on the findings and analysis done in the previous chapter and recommendations for future research.
Dividend remains one of the greatest enigmas of modern finance. Corporate dividend policy is an important decision area in the field of financial management hence there is an extensive literature devoted to the subject. Dividends are defined as the distribution of earnings (present or past) in real assets among the shareholders of the firm in proportion to their ownership. Dividend policy refers to management’s long-term decision on how to utilize cash flows from business activities-that is, how much to plow back into the business, and how much to return to shareholders (Khan and Jain, 2005).
Lintner (1956) conducted a notable study on dividend distributions, his was the first empirical study of dividend policy through his interview with managers of 28 selected companies, he stated that most companies have clear cut target payout ratios and that managers concern themselves with change in the existing dividend payout rather than the amount of the newly established payout. He also states that, Dividend policy is set first and other policies are then adjusted and the market reacts positively to dividend increase announcements and negatively to announcements of dividend decreases. He measured major changes in earnings as the key determinant of the companies’ dividend decisions. Lintner’s study was expanded by Farrelly et al. (1988), who, mailed a questionnaire to 562 firms listed on the New York Stock Exchange and concluded that managers accept dividend policy to be relevant and important. Lintner’s view was also supported by the study results of Fama and Babiak (1968) and Fama (1974) who suggested that managers prefer a stable dividend policy, and are hesitant to increase dividends to a level that cannot be supported. Fama and Babiak’s (1968) study also concludes that Net income appears to explain the dividend change decision better than a cash flow measure.
The study by Adaoglu (2000), Amidu and Abor (2006) and Belans et al (2007) stated that net income shows positive and significant association with the dividend payout, therefore indicating that, the firms with the positive earnings pay more dividends.
Merton Miller and Franco Modigliani (1961) made a proposition that the value of a firm is not affected by its dividend policy. Dividend policy is a way of dividing up operating cash flows among investors or just a financial decision. Financial theorists Martin, Petty, Keown, and Scott, 1991 supported this theory of irrelevance. Miller and Modigliani’s conclusion on the irrelevance of dividend policy presented a tough challenge to the conventional wisdom of time up to that point, it was universally acknowledged by both theorists and corporate managers that the firm can enhance its business value by providing for a more generous dividend policy as investors seem to prefer dividends over capital gains (JM Samuels, FM.Wilkes and R.E Brayshaw).
Benartzi et al. (1997) conducted an extensive study and concluded that Lintner’s model of dividends remains the finest description of the dividend setting process available. Baker et al. (2001) conducted a survey on 630 NASDAQ-listed firms and analyzed the responses from 188 CFO’s about the importance of 22 different factors that influence their dividend policy, they found that the dividend decisions made by managers were consistent with Lintner’s (1956) survey results and model. Their results also suggest that managers pay particular attention to the dividend policy of the firm because the dividend decision can affect firm value and, in turn, the wealth of stockholders, thus dividend policy requires serious attention by the management.
E.F Fama and K.R French (2001) investigated the characteristics of companies paying dividends and concluded that the top most characteristics that affect the decision to pay dividends are Firm size, Profitability, and Investment opportunities. They studied dividend payment in the United States and found that the proportion of dividend payers declined sharply from 66% in 1978 to 20.8% in 1999, and that only about a fifth of public companies paid dividends. Growth companies such as Microsoft, Cisco and Sun Microsystems were found to be non-dividend payers. They also explained that the probability that a firm would pay dividends was positively related to profitability and size and negatively related to growth. Their research concluded that larger firms are more profitable and are more likely to pay dividends, than firms with more investment opportunities. The relationship between firm size and dividend policy was studied by Jennifer J. Gaver and Kenneth M. Gaver (1993). They suggested that “A firm’s dividend yield is inversely related to the extent of its growth opportunities”. The inference here is that as cash flow increases, the coefficient of dividend decreases, indicating that smaller firms that have greater investment opportunities thus they tend not to make dividend payment while larger firms tend to have proactive dividends policy.
Ho, H. (2003) undertook a comparative study of dividend policies in Japan and Australia. Their study revealed that dividend policies in Australia and Japan are affected by different financial factors. Dividend policies are affected positively by size in Australia and liquidity in Japan. Naceur et al (2006) examined the dividend policy of 48 firms listed on the Tunisian Stock Exchange during the period 1996-2002. His research indicated that highly profitable firms with more stable earnings could afford larger free cash flows and thus paid larger dividends. Li and Lie (2006) reported that large and profitable firms are more likely to raise their dividends if the past dividend yield, debt ratio, cash ratio are low. A study was conducted by Norhayati Mohamed, Wee Shu Hui, Mormah Hj.Omar, and Rashidah Abdul Rahman on Malaysian companies over a 3 year period from 2003-2005. The sample was taken from the top 200 companies listed on the main board of Bursa Malaysia based on market capitalization as at 31December 2005. Their study concluded that bigger firms pay higher dividends.
For the purpose of finding out how companies arrive at their dividend decisions, many researchers and theorists have proposed several dividend theories. Gordon and Walter (1963) presented the Bird in Hand theory which suggested that to minimize risk the investors always prefer cash in hand rather than future promise of capital gain. This theory asserts that investors value dividends and high payout firms. As said by John D. Rockefeller (an American industrialist) “The one thing that gives me contentment is to see my dividend coming in”. For companies to communicate financial well-being and shareholder value the easiest way is to say “the dividend check is in the mail”. The bird-in-hand theory (a pre-Miller-Modigliani theory) asserts that dividends are valued differently to capital gains in a world of information asymmetry where due to uncertainty of future cash flow, investors will often tend to prefer dividends to retained earnings. As a result the value of the firm would be increased as a higher payout ratio will reduce the required rate of return (see, for example Gordon, 1959). This argument has not received any strong empirical support. Dividends, paid by companies to shareholders from earnings, serve as an important indicator of the strength and future prosperity of the business. This explanation is known as signaling hypothesis. Signaling is an example factor for the relevance of dividends to the value of the firm. It is based on the idea of information asymmetry between managers and investors, where managers have private information about the firm that is not available to the outsiders. This theory is supported by models put forward by Miller and Rock (1985), Bhattacharya (1979), John and Williams (1985). They stated that dividends can be used as a signaling device to influence share price. The share price reacts favorably when an announcement of dividend increase is made. Few researchers found limited support for the signaling hypothesis (see Gonedes, 1978, Watts, 1973) and there are other researchers, who supported the hypothesis, for example, in Michaely, Nissim and Ziv (2001), Pettit (1972) and Bali (2003).
The tax-preference theory assumes that the market valuation of a firm’s stocks is increased when the dividend payout ratios is low which in turn lowers the required rate of return. Because of the relative tax liability of dividends compared to capital gains, investors need a large amount of before-tax risk adjusted return on stocks with higher dividend yields (Brennan, 1970). On one side studies by Lichtenberger and Ramaswamy (1979), Poterba and Summers, (1984), and Barclay (1987) have presented empirical evidence in support of the tax effect argument and on the other side Black and Scholes (1974), Miller and Scholes (1982), and Morgan and Thomas (1998) have either opposed such findings or provided completely different explanations. The study by Masulis and Trueman (1988) model dividend payments in form of cash as products of deferred dividend costs. Their model predicts that investors with differing tax liabilities will not be uniform in their ideal firm dividend policy. As the tax liability on dividends increases (decreases), the dividend payment decreases (increases) while earnings reinvestment increases (decreases). According to Farrar and Selwyn (1967), in a partial equilibrium framework, individual investors choose the amount of personal and corporate leverage and also whether to receive corporate distributions as dividends or capital gains. Barclay (1987) has presented empirical evidence I support of the tax effect argument. Others, including Black and Scholes (1982), have opposed such findings or provided different explanations.
Farrar and Selwyn’s model (1967) made an assumption that investors tend to increase their after tax income to the maximum. According to this model corporate earnings should be distributed by share repurchase rather than the use of dividends.
Brennan (1970) has extended Farrar and Selwyn’s model into a general equilibrium framework. Under this, the expected usefulness of wealth as a system of barter is maximized. Despite being more robust both the models are similar as regards to their predictions. According to Auerbach’s (1979) discrete-time, infinite-horizon model, the wealth of shareholders is maximized by the shareholders themselves and not by firm market value. If there does, infact, exist a difference between capital gains and dividends tax; firm market value maximization is no longer determined by wealth maximization.
He states that the continued undervaluation of corporate capital leads to dividend distributions.
The clientele effects hypothesis is another related theory. According to this theory the investors may be attracted to the types of stocks that fall in with their consumption/savings preferences. That is, investors (or clienteles) in high tax brackets may prefer non-dividend or low-dividend paying stocks if dividend income is taxed at a higher rate than capital gains. Also, certain clienteles may be created with the presence of transaction costs. There are several empirical studies on the clientele effects hypothesis but the findings are mixed. Studies by Pettit (1977), Scholz (1992), and Dhaliwal, Erickson and Trezevant (1999) presented evidence consistent with the existence of clientele effects hypothesis whereas studies by Lewellen et al. (1978), Richardson, Sefcik and Thomason (1986), Abrutyn and Turner (1990), found weak or contrary evidence.
There is an assumption that the managers do not always take steps which would lead to maximizing an investor’s wealth. This gives rise to another favorable argument for hefty dividend payouts which shifts the reinvestment decision back on the owners. The main hitch would be the agency conflict (conflict between the principal and the agent) arising as a result of separate ownership and control. Therefore, a manager is expected to move the surplus funds from the high retained earnings into projects which are not feasible. This would be mainly due to his ill intention or his in competency.
Thus, generous dividend payouts increase a firm’s value as it reduces the management’s access to free cash flows and hence, controlling the problem of over investment. There are many more agency theories explaining how dividends can increase the value of a firm. One of them was by Easterbrook (1984); he proposed that dividend payments reduce agency problems in contrast to the transaction cost theory which is of the view that dividend payments reduce the value as it forces to raise costly finances from outside sources. His idea is that if the dividends are not paid, there is a problem of collective action that tends to lead to hap-hazard management of the firm. So, dividend payouts and raising external finance would attract auditory and regulatory measures by financial intermediaries like investment banks, respective stock exchange regulators and the potential investors as well. All this monitoring would lead to considerable reduction of agency costs and appreciate the market value of the firm. Moreover, as defined by Jenson and Meckling (1976), Agency costs=monitoring costs+ bonding, costs+ residual loss i.e. sum of agency cost of equity and agency cost of debt. Hence, Easterbrook (1984) noted that dividend payments and raising new debt and its contract negotiations would reduce potential for wealth transfer.
The realization for potential agency costs linked with separation of management and shareholder’s is not new. Adam Smith (1937) proposed that management of earlier companies is wayward. This problem was highly witnessed during at the time of British East Indian Companies and tracking managers was a failure due to inefficiencies and high costs of shareholder monitoring (Kindleberger, 1984). Scott (1912) and Carlos (1922) differ with this view point. They agree that although some fraud existed in the corporations, many of the activities of the managers were in line with those of the shareholder’s interests.
An opportune and intelligent manager should always invest the surplus cash available into those opportunities which are well researched to be in the best interest of the shareholders. Berle and Means (1932) was the first to discover the insufficient utilization of funds which are surplus after other investment opportunities taken by the management. This thought was further promoted by Jensen’s (1986) free cash flow hypothesis. This hypothesis combined market information asymmetries with the agency theory. The surplus funds left after all the valuable projects are largely responsible for creation of the conflict of interest between the management and the shareholders. Payment of dividends and interest on other debt instruments reduce the cash flow with the management to invest in marginal net present value projects and for other perquisite consumptions. Therefore, the dividend theory is better explained by the combination of both the agency and the signaling theory rather than by any one of these alone. On the other hand, the free cash flow hypothesis rationalizes the corporate takeover frenzy of the 1980’s Myer’s (1987 and 1990) rather than providing a clear and comprehensive dividend policy.
The study by Baker et al. (2007) reports, that firms paying dividend in Canada are significantly larger and more profitable, having greater cash flows, ownership structure and some growth opportunities. The cash flow hypothesis proposes that insiders to a firm have more information about future cash flow than the outsiders, and they have incentivized motives to leak this to outsiders. Lang and Litzenberger (1989) check the cash flow signaling and free cash flow explanations of the effect of dividend declarations on the stock prices. This difference between permanent and temporary changes is also explored in Brook, Charlton, and Hendershott (1998). However, this study is based on the hypothesis that dividend changes contain cash flow information rather than information about earnings. This is the cash flow signaling hypothesis proposing that dividend changes signal expected cash flows changes.
The dividend decisions are affected by a number of factors; many researchers have contributed in determining which determinant of dividend payout is the most significant in contributing to dividend decisions. It is said that the primary indicator of the firm’s capacity to pay dividends has been Profits. According to Lintner (1956) the dividend payment pattern of a firm is influenced by the current year earnings and previous year dividends. Pruitt and Gitman’s (1991) survey of financial managers of 1000 largest U.S companies about the interplay among the investment and dividend decisions in their firms reported that, current and past year profits are essential factors influencing dividend payments. The conclusion derived from Baker and Powell’s (2000) survey of NYSE-listed firms is that the major determinant is the anticipated level of future earnings and continuity of past dividends. The study of Aivazian, Booth, and Cleary (2003) concludes that profitability and return on equity positively correlate with the size of the dividend payout ratio. The study by Lv Chang-jiang and Wang Ke-min (1999) on 316 listed companies in China that paid cash dividends during 1997 and 1998 by using modified Lintner dividend model, suggested that the dividend payout ratio is due to the firm’s current earning level. Other researchers like Chen Guo-Hui and Zhao Chun-guang (2000), Liu Shu-lian and Hu Yan-hong (2003) also concluded their research on the above stated understanding about dividend policy of listed companies in China.
A survey done by Baker, Farrelly, and Edelman (1985) and Farrelly, Baker, and Edelman (1986) on 562 New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) firms with “normal” kinds of dividend polices in 1983 suggested that the major determinants of dividend payments were the anticipated level of future earnings and the pattern of past dividends.
DeAngelo et al. (2004) findings suggest that earnings do have some impact on dividend payment. He stated that the high/increasing dividend concentration may be the result of high/increasing earnings concentration. Goergen et al. (2005) study on 221 German firms shows that net earnings were the key determinants of dividend changes. Baker and Smith (2006) examined 309 sample firms exhibiting behavior consistent with a residual dividend policy and their matched counterparts to understand how they set their dividend policies. Their study showed that for the matched firms, the pattern of past dividends and desire to maintain a long-term dividend payout ratio elicit the highest level of agreement from respondents. The study by Ferris et al. (2006) found mixed results for the relation between a firm’s earnings and its ability to pay dividends. Kao and Wu (1994) used a time series regression analysis of 454 firms over the period of 1965 to1986, and showed that there was a positive relationship between unexpected dividends and earnings. Carroll (1995) used quarterly data of 854 firms over the period of 1975 to 1984, and examined whether quarterly dividend changes predicted future earnings. He found a significant positive relationship.
Liquidity is also an important determinant of dividend payouts. A poor liquidity position would generate fewer dividends due to shortage of cash. Alli et.al (1993), reveal that dividend payments depend more on cash flows, which reflect the company’s ability to pay dividends, than on current earnings, which are less heavily influenced by accounting practices. They claim current earnings do no really reflect the firm’s ability to pay dividends. A firm without the cash flow back up cannot choose to have a high dividend payout as it will ultimately have to either reduce its investment plans or turn to investors for additional debt. The study by Brook, Charlton and Hendershott (1998) states that, Firms expecting large permanent cash flow increases tend to increase their dividend.
Managers do not increase dividends until they are positive that sufficient cash will flow in to pay them (Brealey-Myers-2002). Myers and Bacon’s (2001) study shows a negative relationship between the liquid ratio and dividend payout.
For companies to enable them to enhance their dividend paying capacity, and thus, to generate higher dividend paying capacity, it is necessary to retain their earnings to finance investment in fixed assets. The study by Belans et al (2007) states that the relationship between the firm’s liquidity and dividend is positive which explains that firms with more market liquidity pay more dividends. Reddy (2006), Amidu and Abor (2006) find opposite evidence.
Lintner (1956) posited that the level of retained earnings is a dividend decision by- product. Adaoglu (2000) study shows that the firms listed on Istanbul Stock Exchange follow unstable cash dividend policy and the main factor for determining the amount of dividend is earning of the firms. The same conclusion was drawn by Omet (2004) in case of firms listed on Amman Securities Market and he further states that the tax imposition on dividend does not have the significant impact on the dividend behavior of the listed firms. The study by Mick and Bacon (2003) concludes that future earnings are the most influential variable and that the past dividend patterns as well as current and expected levels are empirically relevant in explaining the dividend decision. Empirical support for Lintner’s findings, that dividends were indeed a function of current and past profit levels and were negatively correlated with the change in sales was found by Darling (1957), Fama and Babiak (1968). Benchman and Raaballe (2007) discovered that the propensity to pay out dividends is positively correlated to retained earnings. Also, the study by Denis and Osobov (2006) states that retained earnings are a significant dividend characteristic for non- US firms including UK, German, and French firms.
One of the motives for dividend policy decision is maintaining a moderate share price as poor stock price performance mostly conveys negative information about firm’s reputation. An empirical research took by Zhao Chun-guang and Zhang Xue-li et al (2001) on all A shares listed companies listed in Shenzhen and Shanghai Stock Exchange, states that the more cash dividends is paid when the stock prices are high. Chen Guo-Hui and Zhao Chun-guang (2000) undertook a research on all A shares listed before 1996 and paid dividend into share capital in 1997 as their sampling, and employed single-factor analysis, multifactor regression analysis to analyze the data. Their research showed a positive stock price reaction to the cash dividend, stock dividend policy.
Myers and Bacon (2001) discussed that the debt to equity ratio was positively correlated to the dividend yield. Therefore firms with relatively more investment opportunities would tend to be more geared and vice versa (Ross, 2000). The study by Hu and Liu, (2005) declares that there is a positive correlation between the cash dividend the companies pay and their current earnings, and a inverse relationship between the debt to total assets and dividends.
Green et al. (1993) questioned the irrelevance argument and investigated the relationship between the dividends and investment and financing decisions. Their study showed that dividend payout levels are decided along with investment and financing decisions. The study results however do not support the views of Miller and Modigliani (1961). Partington (1983) declared that firms’ motives for paying dividends and extent to which dividends are decided are independent of investment policy. The study by Higgins (1981) declares a direct link between growths and financing needs, rapidly growing firms have external financing needs because working capital needs normally exceed the incremental cash flows from new sales. Higgins (1972) suggests that payout ratios are negatively related to firms’ need top fund finance growth opportunities. Other researchers like Rozeff (1982), Lloyd et al. (1985) and Collins et al. (1996) all show significantly negative relationship between historical sales growth and dividend payout whereas D, Souza (1999) however shows a positive but insignificant relationship in the case of growth and negative but insignificant relationship in case of market to book value. Jenson and Meckling (1976) find a strong relationship between dividends and investment opportunities. They explain, in some circumstances where firm’s have relative uptight disposable
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