Dividend policy

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Dividend policy is concerned with financial policies regarding paying cash dividend in the present or paying an increased dividend at a later stage. Whether to issue dividends, and what amount, is determined mainly on the basis of the company's unappropriated profit (excess cash) and influenced by the company's long-term earning power. When cash surplus exists and is not needed by the firm, then management is expected to pay out some or all of those surplus earnings in the form of cash dividends or to repurchase the company's stock through a share buyback program.


If there are no NPV positive opportunities, i.e. projects where returns exceed the hurdle rate, and excess cash surplus is not needed, then – finance theory suggests – management should return some or all of the excess cash to shareholders as dividends. This is the general case, however there are exceptions. For example, shareholders of a "growth stock", expect that the company will, almost by definition, retain most of the excess earnings so as to fund future growth internally. By with holding current dividend payments to shareholders, managers of growth companies are hoping that dividend payments will be increased proportionality higher in the future, to offset the retainment of current earnings and the internal financing of present investment projects.

Management must also choose the form of the dividend distribution, generally as cash dividends or via a share buyback. Various factors may be taken into consideration: where shareholders must pay tax on dividends, firms may elect to retain earnings or to perform a stock buyback, in both cases increasing the value of shares outstanding. Alternatively, some companies will pay "dividends" from stock rather than in cash; see Corporate action. Financial theory suggests that the dividend policy should be set based upon the type of company and what management determines is the best use of those dividend resources for the firm to its shareholders. As a general rule, shareholders of growth companies would prefer managers to have a share buyback program, whereas shareholders of value or secondary stocks would prefer the management of these companies to payout surplus earnings in the form of cash dividends.


Coming up with the dividend policy is challenging for the directors and financial manager of a company, because different investors have different views on present cash dividends and future capital gains. Another confusion that pops up is regarding the extent of effect of dividends on the share price. Due to this controversial nature of a dividend policy it is often called the dividend puzzle.

Various models have been developed to help firms analyse and evaluate the perfect dividend policy. There is no agreement between these schools of thought over the relationship between dividends and the value of the share or the wealth of the shareholders in other words.

One school consists of people like James E. Walter and Myron J. Gordon (see Gordon model), who believe that current cash dividends are less risky than future capital gains. Thus, they say that investors prefer those firms which pay regular dividends and such dividends affect the market price of the share. Another school linked to Modigliani and Miller holds that investors don't really choose between future gains and cash dividends. [1]

Relevance of dividend policy

Dividends paid by the firms are viewed positively both by the investors and the firms. The firms which do not pay dividends are rated in oppositely by investors thus affecting the share price. The people who support relevance of dividends clearly state that regular dividends reduce uncertainty of the shareholders i.e. the earnings of the firm is discounted at a lower rate, ke thereby increasing the market value. However, its exactly opposite in the case of increased uncertainty due to non-payment of dividends.

Two important models supporting dividend relevance are given by Walter and Gordon.

Walter's model

Walter's model shows the relevance of dividend policy and its bearing on the value of the share.

Assumptions of the Walter model

  1. Retained earnings are the only source of financing investments in the firm, there is no external finance involved.
  2. The cost of capital, k e and the rate of return on investment, r are constant i.e. even if new investments decisions are taken, the risks of the business remains same.
  3. The firm's life is endless i.e. there is no closing down.

Basically, the firm's decision to give or not give out dividends depends on whether it has enough opportunities to invest the retained earnings i.e. a strong relationship between investment and dividend decisions is considered.

Model description

Dividends paid to the shareholders are reinvested by the shareholder further, to get higher returns. This is referred to as the opportunity cost of the firm or the cost of capital, ke for the firm. Another situation where the firms do not pay out dividends, is when they invest the profits or retained earnings in profitable opportunities to earn returns on such investments. This rate of return r, for the firm must at least be equal to ke. If this happens then the returns of the firm is equal to the earnings of the shareholders if the dividends were paid. Thus, it's clear that if r, is more than the cost of capital ke, then the returns from investments is more than returns shareholders receive from further investments.

Walter's model says that if r < ke then the firm should distribute the profits in the form of dividends to give the shareholders higher returns. However, if r > ke then the investment opportunities reap better returns for the firm and thus, the firm should invest the retained earnings. The relationship between r and k are extremely important to determine the dividend policy. It decides whether the firm should have zero payout or 100% payout.

In a nutshell :

  • If r > ke, the firm should have zero payout and make investments.
  • If r < ke, the firm should have 100% payouts and no investment of retained earnings.
  • If r = ke, the firm is indifferent between dividends and investments.

Mathematical representation

Mandar Mathkar has given a mathematical model for the above made statements :


  • P = Market price of the share
  • D = Dividend per share
  • r = Rate of return on the firm's investments
  • ke = Cost of equity
  • E = Earnings per share'

The market price of the share consists of the sum total of:

  • the present value of an infinite stream of dividends
  • the present value of an infinite stream of returns on investments made from retained earnings.

Therefore, the market value of a share is the result of expected dividends and capital gains according to Walter.


Although the model provides a simple framework to explain the relationship between the market value of the share and the dividend policy, it has some unrealistic assumptions.

  1. The assumption of no external financing apart from retained earnings, for the firm make further investments is not really followed in the real world.
  2. The constant r and ke are seldom found in real life, because as and when a firm invests more the business risks change.

Gordon's model

Myron J. Gordon Myron J. Gordon.jpg
Myron J. Gordon

Myron J. Gordon has also supported dividend relevance and believes in regular dividends affecting the share price of the firm. [2]

Assumptions of the Gordon model

Gordon's assumptions are similar to the ones given by Walter. However, there are two additional assumptions proposed by him:

  1. The product of retention ratio b and the rate of return r gives us the growth rate of the firm g.
  2. The cost of capital ke, is not only constant but greater than the growth rate i.e. ke>g.

Model description

Investors are risk-averse and believe that incomes from dividends are certain rather than incomes from future capital gains, therefore they predict future capital gains to be risky propositions. They discount the future capital gains at a higher rate than the firm's earnings, thereby evaluating a higher value of the share. In short, when retention rate increases, they require a higher discounting rate. Gordon has given a model similar to Walter's formula to determine price of the share.

Mathematical representation

The market prices of the share is calculated as follows:


  • P = Market price of the share
  • E = Earnings per share
  • b = Retention ratio (1 - payout ratio)
  • r = Rate of return on the firm's investments
  • ke = Cost of equity
  • br = Growth rate of the firm (g)

Therefore, the model shows a relationship between the payout ratio, rate of return, cost of capital and the market price of the share.

Conclusions on the Walter and Gordon model

Gordon's ideas were similar to Walter's and therefore, the criticisms are also similar. Both of them clearly state the relationship between dividend policies and market value of the firm.

Lintner's model

John Lintner's dividend policy model is a model theorizing how a publicly-traded company sets its dividend policy. The logic is that every company wants to maintain a constant rate of dividend even if the results in a particular period are not up to the mark. The assumption is that investors will prefer to receive a certain dividend payout.

The model states that dividends are paid according to two factors. The first is the net present value of earnings, with higher values indicating higher dividends. The second is the sustainability of earnings; that is, a company may increase its earnings without increasing its dividend payouts until managers are convinced that it will continue to maintain such earnings. The theory was adopted based on observations that many companies will set their long-run target dividends-to-earnings ratios based upon the amount of positive net-present-value projects that they have available.

The model then uses two parameters, the target payout ratio and the speed where current dividends adjust to that target:


When applying its model to U.S. stocks, Lintner found and .

Capital structure substitution theory and dividends

The capital structure substitution theory (CSS) [3] describes the relationship between earnings, stock price and capital structure of public companies. The theory is based on one simple hypothesis: company managements manipulate capital structure such that earnings-per-share (EPS) are maximized. The resulting dynamic debt-equity target explains why some companies use dividends and others do not. When redistributing cash to shareholders, company managements can typically choose between dividends and share repurchases. But as dividends are in most cases taxed higher than capital gains, investors are expected to prefer capital gains. However, the CSS theory shows that for some companies share repurchases lead to a reduction in EPS. These companies typically prefer dividends over share repurchases.

Mathematical representation

From the CSS theory it can be derived that debt-free companies should prefer repurchases whereas companies with a debt-equity ratio larger than

should prefer dividends as a means to distribute cash to shareholders, where

  • D is the company's total long-term debt
  • is the company's total equity
  • is the tax rate on capital gains
  • is the tax rate on dividends

Low-valued, high-leverage companies with limited investment opportunities and a high profitability use dividends as the preferred means to distribute cash to shareholders, as is documented by empirical research. [4]


The CSS theory provides more guidance on dividend policy to company managements than the Walter model and the Gordon model. It also reverses the traditional order of cause and effect by implying that company valuation ratios drive dividend policy, and not vice versa. The CSS theory does not have 'invisible' or 'hidden' parameters such as the equity risk premium, the discount rate, the expected growth rate or expected inflation. As a consequence the theory can be tested in an unambiguous way.

Irrelevance of dividend policy

Franco Modigliani Franco Modigliani.jpg
Franco Modigliani

The Modigliani and Miller school of thought believes that investors do not state any preference between current dividends and capital gains. They say that dividend policy is irrelevant and is not deterministic of the market value. Therefore, the shareholders are indifferent between the two types of dividends. All they want are high returns either in the form of dividends or in the form of re-investment of retained earnings by the firm. There are two conditions discussed in relation to this approach :

Two important theories discussed relating to the irrelevance approach, the residuals theory and the Modigliani and Miller approach.

Residuals theory of dividends

One of the assumptions of this theory is that external financing to re-invest is either not available, or that it is too costly to invest in any profitable opportunity. If the firm has good investment opportunity available then, they'll invest the retained earnings and reduce the dividends or give no dividends at all. If no such opportunity exists, the firm will pay out dividends.

If a firm has to issue securities to finance an investment, the existence of flotation costs needs a larger amount of securities to be issued. Therefore, the pay out of dividends depend on whether any profits are left after the financing of proposed investments as flotation costs increases the amount of profits used. Deciding how much dividends to be paid is not the concern here, in fact the firm has to decide how much profits to be retained and the rest can then be distributed as dividends. This is the theory of Residuals, where dividends are residuals from the profits after serving proposed investments. [6]

This residual decision is distributed in three steps:

Extension of the theory

The dividend policy strongly depends on two things:

  • investment opportunities available to the company
  • amount of internally retained and generated funds which lead to dividend distribution if all possible investments have been financed.

The dividend policy of such a kind is a passive one, and doesn't influence market price. the dividends also fluctuate every year because of different investment opportunities every year. However, it doesn't really affect the shareholders as they get compensated in the form of future capital gains.


The firm paying out dividends is obviously generating incomes for an investor, however even if the firm takes some investment opportunity then the incomes of the investors rise at a later stage due to this profitable investment.

Modigliani–Miller theorem

The Modigliani–Miller theorem states that the division of retained earnings between new investment and dividends do not influence the value of the firm. It is the investment pattern and consequently the earnings of the firm which affect the share price or the value of the firm. [7]

Assumptions of the MM theorem

The MM approach has taken into consideration the following assumptions:

  1. There is a rational behavior by the investors and there exists perfect capital markets.
  2. Investors have free information available for them.
  3. No time lag and transaction costs exist.
  4. Securities can be split into any parts i.e. they are divisible
  5. No taxes and flotation costs.
  6. Capital markets are perfectly efficient(Exists)
  7. The investment decisions are taken firmly and the profits are therefore known with certainty. The dividend policy does not affect these decisions.
  8. There is perfect certainty of future profits of firm

Model description

The dividend irrelevancy in this model exists because shareholders are indifferent between paying out dividends and investing retained earnings in new opportunities. The firm finances opportunities either through retained earnings or by issuing new shares to raise capital. The amount used up in paying out dividends is replaced by the new capital raised through issuing shares. This will affect the value of the firm in an opposite way. The increase in the value because of the dividends will be offset by the decrease in the value for new capital raising. step 1: Find out P1 i.e. next year price of the share

            P0 = D1 + P1 / 1+Re

step 2: No of shares to be issued

        mP1 = I-(E-D1)

ste p3: Value of firm

       nP0 = (n+m)P1-I+E / Re

See also

Related Research Articles

Dividend Payment made by a corporation to its shareholders, usually as a distribution of profits

A dividend is a distribution of profits by a corporation to its shareholders. When a corporation earns a profit or surplus, it is able to pay a proportion of the profit as a dividend to shareholders. Any amount not distributed is taken to be re-invested in the business. The current year profit as well as the retained earnings of previous years are available for distribution; a corporation is usually prohibited from paying a dividend out of its capital. Distribution to shareholders may be in cash or, if the corporation has a dividend reinvestment plan, the amount can be paid by the issue of further shares or by share repurchase. In some cases, the distribution may be of assets.

Equity (finance) Ownership of property reduced by its liabilities

In finance, equity is ownership of assets that may have debts or other liabilities attached to them. Equity is measured for accounting purposes by subtracting liabilities from the value of the assets. For example, if someone owns a car worth $24,000 and owes $10,000 on the loan used to buy the car, the difference of $14,000 is equity. Equity can apply to a single asset, such as a car or house, or to an entire business. A business that needs to start up or expand its operations can sell its equity in order to raise cash that does not have to be repaid on a set schedule.

The weighted average cost of capital (WACC) is the rate that a company is expected to pay on average to all its security holders to finance its assets. The WACC is commonly referred to as the firm's cost of capital. Importantly, it is dictated by the external market and not by management. The WACC represents the minimum return that a company must earn on an existing asset base to satisfy its creditors, owners, and other providers of capital, or they will invest elsewhere.

In financial markets, stock valuation is the method of calculating theoretical values of companies and their stocks. The main use of these methods is to predict future market prices, or more generally, potential market prices, and thus to profit from price movement – stocks that are judged undervalued are bought, while stocks that are judged overvalued are sold, in the expectation that undervalued stocks will overall rise in value, while overvalued stocks will generally decrease in value.

In economics and accounting, the cost of capital is the cost of a company's funds, or, from an investor's point of view "the required rate of return on a portfolio company's existing securities". It is used to evaluate new projects of a company. It is the minimum return that investors expect for providing capital to the company, thus setting a benchmark that a new project has to meet.

In corporate finance, free cash flow (FCF) or free cash flow to firm (FCFF) is the amount by which a business's operating cash flow exceeds its working capital needs and expenditures on fixed assets. It is that portion of cash flow that can be extracted from a company and distributed to creditors and securities holders without causing issues in its operations. As such, it is an indicator of a company's financial flexibility and is of interest to holders of the company's equity, debt, preferred stock and convertible securities, as well as potential lenders and investors.

The retained earnings of a corporation is the accumulated net income of the corporation that is retained by the corporation at a particular point of time, such as at the end of the reporting period. At the end of that period, the net income at that point is transferred from the Profit and Loss Account to the retained earnings account. If the balance of the retained earnings account is negative it may be called accumulated losses, retained losses or accumulated deficit, or similar terminology.

The return on equity (ROE) is a measure of the profitability of a business in relation to the equity. Because shareholder's equity can be calculated by taking all assets and subtracting all liabilities, ROE can also be thought of as a return on assets minus liabilities. ROE measures how many dollars of profit are generated for each dollar of shareholder's equity. ROE is a metric of how well the company utilizes its equity to generate profits.

John Virgil Lintner, Jr. was a professor at the Harvard Business School in the 1960s and one of the co-creators of the capital asset pricing model.

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Share repurchase is the re-acquisition by a company of its own shares. It represents an alternate and more flexible way of returning money to shareholders.

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Earnings growth is the annual compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of earnings from investments. For more general discussion see: Sustainable growth rate#From a financial perspective; Stock valuation#Growth rate; Valuation using discounted cash flows#Determine the continuing value; Growth stock; PEG ratio.

In finance and investing, the dividend discount model (DDM) is a method of valuing the price of a company's stock based on the fact that its stock is worth the sum of all of its future dividend payments, discounted back to their present value. In other words, DDM is used to value stocks based on the net present value of the future dividends. The constant-growth form of the DDM is sometimes referred to as the Gordon growth model (GGM), after Myron J. Gordon of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Rochester, and the University of Toronto, who published it along with Eli Shapiro in 1956 and made reference to it in 1959. Their work borrowed heavily from the theoretical and mathematical ideas found in John Burr Williams 1938 book "The Theory of Investment Value," which put forth the dividend discount model 18 years before Gordon and Shapiro.

In finance, the T-model is a formula that states the returns earned by holders of a company's stock in terms of accounting variables obtainable from its financial statements. The T-model connects fundamentals with investment return, allowing an analyst to make projections of financial performance and turn those projections into a required return that can be used in investment selection. Mathematically the model is as follows:

Financial ratio Numerical value to determine the financial condition of a company

A financial ratio or accounting ratio is a relative magnitude of two selected numerical values taken from an enterprise's financial statements. Often used in accounting, there are many standard ratios used to try to evaluate the overall financial condition of a corporation or other organization. Financial ratios may be used by managers within a firm, by current and potential shareholders (owners) of a firm, and by a firm's creditors. Financial analysts use financial ratios to compare the strengths and weaknesses in various companies. If shares in a company are traded in a financial market, the market price of the shares is used in certain financial ratios.

In finance, the capital structure substitution theory (CSS) describes the relationship between earnings, stock price and capital structure of public companies. The CSS theory hypothesizes that managements of public companies manipulate capital structure such that earnings per share (EPS) are maximized. Managements have an incentive to do so because shareholders and analysts value EPS growth. The theory is used to explain trends in capital structure, stock market valuation, dividend policy, the monetary transmission mechanism, and stock volatility, and provides an alternative to the Modigliani–Miller theorem that has limited descriptive validity in real markets. The CSS theory is only applicable in markets where share repurchases are allowed. Investors can use the CSS theory to identify undervalued stocks.

Corporate finance Academic discipline concerning the activities of corporations

Corporate finance is the area of finance that deals with sources of funding, the capital structure of corporations, the actions that managers take to increase the value of the firm to the shareholders, and the tools and analysis used to allocate financial resources. The primary goal of corporate finance is to maximize or increase shareholder value.

Residual income valuation is an approach to equity valuation that formally accounts for the cost of equity capital. Here, "residual" means in excess of any opportunity costs measured relative to the book value of shareholders' equity; residual income (RI) is then the income generated by a firm after accounting for the true cost of capital. The approach is largely analogous to the EVA/MVA based approach, with similar logic and advantages. Residual Income valuation has its origins in Edwards & Bell (1961), Peasnell (1982), and Ohlson (1995).

The sum of perpetuities method (SPM) is a way of valuing a business assuming that investors discount the future earnings of a firm regardless of whether earnings are paid as dividends or retained. SPM is an alternative to the Gordon growth model (GGM) and can be applied to business or stock valuation if the business is assumed to have constant earnings and/or dividend growth. The variables are:


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