Dividend Theories

02/09/2022 0 By indiafreenotes

A dividend is a reward for the shareholders of a company for investing in the company and continuing to be a part of it. Dividend distribution is a part of the financing decision for a company. The management has to decide what percentage of profits they shall give away as dividends over a period of time. They retain the balance for the internal use of the company in the future. It acts as an internal source of finance for the company. Dividend theories suggest how the value of the company is affected by the decision to distribute the profits as dividends by the management. It further affects on account of the frequency of dividend distribution and the quantum of dividend distribution over the years.

Both types of dividend theories rely upon several assumptions to suggest whether the dividend policy affects the value of a company or not. However, many of these assumptions do not stand in the real world. They have been used only to simplify the situation and the theory.

For example, suppose the management of a particular company decides to cut down on the dividend payout and retain more of its earnings. According to the Walter model, this happens when the internal ROI is greater than the cost of capital of the company. However, in reality, this may not mean that it has better use of the funds in hand and can provide a higher ROI than its cost of capital. The company may be going through a tough phase and needs more finance. Moreover, many assumptions in the above models, such as that of constant ROI, cost of capital and absence of taxes, transaction costs, and floatation costs, do not hold ground in the real world. A perfect capital market rarely exists, and investment opportunities, as well as future profits, can never be certain.

Several theories have been proposed to explain the determinants and implications of dividend policy adopted by companies. These theories provide insights into why companies choose to pay dividends, how they make dividend decisions, and how these decisions impact shareholder wealth.

Each dividend theory provides a different perspective on the factors influencing dividend policy. While some theories emphasize investor preferences and signaling, others highlight the irrelevance of dividend decisions in a perfect market. In practice, companies often consider a combination of these theories, taking into account their financial situation, growth opportunities, and the preferences of their shareholder base when determining their dividend policies.

  1. Modigliani-Miller (MM) Propositions:

Developed by Franco Modigliani and Merton Miller, MM propositions argue that, in a perfect capital market, dividend policy is irrelevant. Investors are assumed to be indifferent between dividends and capital gains.

  • Propositions:
    • Dividend Irrelevance Proposition: The value of a firm is not affected by its dividend policy.
    • Homemade Dividends: Investors can create their desired cash flow by buying or selling shares, making dividend policy irrelevant.
  1. Bird-in-Hand Theory (Myron Gordon):

The Bird-in-Hand theory suggests that investors prefer receiving dividends today rather than waiting for uncertain capital gains in the future. The theory is associated with Myron Gordon.

  • Propositions:
    • Investors perceive certain dividends as more valuable than potential future capital gains.
    • Dividend payments provide investors with tangible returns and reduce uncertainty.
  1. Clientele Effect (John Lintner):

John Lintner proposed the clientele effect, suggesting that firms attract a specific group (clientele) of investors based on their dividend policy.

  • Propositions:
    • Companies tend to have a consistent dividend policy to cater to the preferences of their existing shareholder base.
    • Investors with different preferences self-select into firms that match their desired dividend profile.
  1. Signaling Theory (Myron Gordon and John Lintner):

Signaling theory suggests that firms use dividend policy to convey information to the market about their financial health and future prospects.

  • Propositions:
    • Companies with stable dividends signal financial stability and confidence in future earnings.
    • Dividend changes can convey positive or negative information about a company’s prospects.
  1. Residual Theory (Walter’s Model):

Proposed by James E. Walter, the residual theory suggests that a company should pay dividends from residual earnings after meeting its investment needs.

  • Propositions:
    • Dividends are paid from what remains after funding all acceptable investment opportunities.
    • It emphasizes the importance of maintaining a balance between retained earnings and dividends.
  1. Linter’s Model of Dividend Determination:

John Lintner expanded on his clientele effect work with a model that aims to explain how companies set their dividend policies over time.

  • Propositions:
    • Companies target a specific dividend payout ratio based on their earnings and stability.
    • Dividend changes are gradual and influenced by past dividends.
  1. Dividend Stability Theory (Gordon and Shapiro):

Building on the Bird-in-Hand theory, Gordon and Shapiro propose that investors prefer a stable dividend policy as it provides a reliable income stream.

  • Propositions:
    • Companies should establish and maintain a stable dividend payout to satisfy investor preferences.
    • Stable dividends contribute to investor confidence and loyalty.
  1. Tax Preference Theory:

The tax preference theory suggests that investors may prefer capital gains over dividends due to favorable tax treatment.

  • Propositions:
    • Capital gains may be more tax-efficient for investors than receiving dividends, especially in jurisdictions with preferential capital gains tax rates.
    • Investors might prefer companies that prioritize share price appreciation over dividends.