Dividend Policy of Indian Corporate Firms: An Analysis of Trends and Determinants Dr. Y. Subba Reddy1 The present study examines the dividend behavior of Indian corporate firms over the period 1990 – 2001 and attempts to explain the observed behavior with the help of trade-off theory, and signaling hypothesis. Analysis of dividend trends for a large sample of stocks traded on the NSE and BSE indicate that the percentage of companies paying dividends has declined from 60.5 percent in 1990 to 32.1 percent in 2001 and that only a few firms have consistently paid the same levels of dividends. Further, dividend-paying companies are more profitable, large in size and growth doesn’t seem to deter Indian firms from paying higher dividends. Analysis of influence of changes in tax regime on dividend behavior shows that the tradeoff or tax-preference theory does not appear to hold true in the Indian context. Test of signaling hypothesis reinforces the earlier findings that dividend omissions have information content about future earnings. However, analysis of other non-extreme dividend events such as dividend reductions and non-reductions shows that current losses are an important determinant of dividend reductions for firms with established track record and that the incidence of dividend reduction is much more severe in the case of Indian firms compared to that of firms traded on the NYSE. Further, dividend changes appear to signal contemporaneous and lagged earnings performance rather than the future earnings performance.
Asst. Professor, Institute for Financial Management and Research (IFMR), Chennai. The views expressed and the approach suggested are of the authors and not necessarily of NSE.
From the practitioners’ viewpoint, dividend policy1 of a firm has implications for investors, managers and lenders and other stakeholders. For investors, dividends – whether declared today or accumulated and provided at a later date - are not only a means of regular income2, but also an important input in valuation of a firm3. Similarly, managers’ flexibility to invest in projects is also dependent on the amount of dividend that they can offer to shareholders as more dividends may mean fewer funds available for investment. Lenders may also have interest in the amount of dividend a firm declares, as more the dividend paid less would be the amount available for servicing and redemption of their claims. However, in a perfect world as Modigliani and Miller (1961) have shown, investors may be indifferent about the amount of dividend as it has no influence on the value of a firm. Any investor can create a ‘home made dividend’ if required or can invest the proceeds of a dividend payment in additional shares as and when a company makes dividend payment. Similarly, managers may be indifferent as funds would be available or could be raised with out any flotation costs for all positive net present value projects. But in reality, dividends may matter, particularly in the context of differential tax treatment of dividends and capital gains. Very often dividends are taxed at a higher rate compared to capital gains. This implies that dividends may have negative consequences for investors4. Similarly, cost of raising funds is not insignificant and may well lead to lower payout, particularly when positive net present value projects are available. Apart from flotation costs, information asymmetry between managers and outside investors may also have implications for dividend policy. According to Myers and Majluf (1984), in the presence of information asymmetry and flotation costs, investment decisions made by managers are subject to the pecking order of financing choices available. Managers prefer retained earnings to debt and debt to equity flotation to finance the available projects. Information asymmetry between agents (managers) and principals (outside shareholders) may also lead to agency cost (Jensen and Meckling, 1976). One...
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