A number of considerations affect the dividend policy of company. The major factors are
1. Stability of Earnings. The nature of business has an important bearing on the dividend policy. Industrial units having stability of earnings may formulate a more consistent dividend policy than those having an uneven flow of incomes because they can predict easily their savings and earnings. Usually, enterprises dealing in necessities suffer less from oscillating earnings than those dealing in luxuries or fancy goods.
2. Age of corporation. Age of the corporation counts much in deciding the dividend policy. A newly established company may require much of its earnings for expansion and plant improvement and may adopt a rigid dividend policy while, on the other hand, an older company can formulate a clear cut and more consistent policy regarding dividend.
3. Liquidity of Funds. Availability of cash and sound financial position is also an important factor in dividend decisions. A dividend represents a cash outflow, the greater the funds and the liquidity of the firm the better the ability to pay dividend. The liquidity of a firm depends very much on the investment and financial decisions of the firm which in turn determines the rate of expansion and the manner of financing. If cash position is weak, stock dividend will be distributed and if cash position is good, company can distribute the cash dividend.
4. Extent of share Distribution. Nature of ownership also affects the dividend decisions. A closely held company is likely to get the assent of the shareholders for the suspension of dividend or for following a conservative dividend policy. On the other hand, a company having a good number of shareholders widely distributed and forming low or medium income group, would face a great difficulty in securing such assent because they will emphasis to distribute higher dividend.
5. Needs for Additional Capital. Companies retain a part of their profits for strengthening their financial position. The income may be conserved for meeting the increased requirements of working capital or of future expansion. Small companies usually find difficulties in raising finance for their needs of increased working capital for expansion programmes. They having no other alternative, use their ploughed back profits. Thus, such Companies distribute dividend at low rates and retain a big part of profits.
6. 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.
7. Government Policies. The earnings capacity of the enterprise is widely affected by the change in fiscal, industrial, labour, control and other government policies. Sometimes government restricts the distribution of dividend beyond a certain percentage in a particular industry or in all spheres of business activity as was done in emergency. The dividend policy has to be modified or formulated accordingly in those enterprises.
8. Taxation Policy. High taxation reduces the earnings of he companies and consequently the rate of dividend is lowered down. Sometimes government levies dividend-tax of distribution of dividend beyond a certain limit. It also affects the capital formation. N India, dividends beyond 10 % of paid-up capital are subject to dividend tax at 7.5 %.
9. Legal Requirements. In deciding on the dividend, the directors take the legal requirements too into consideration. In order to protect the interests of creditors an outsiders, the companies Act 1956 prescribes certain guidelines in respect of the distribution and payment of dividend. Moreover, 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. Likewise, contractual obligation should also be fulfilled, for example, payment of dividend on preference shares in priority over ordinary dividend.
10. Past dividend Rates. While formulating the Dividend Policy, the directors must keep in mind the dividend paid in past years. The current rate should be around the average past rat. If it has been abnormally increased the shares will be subjected to speculation. In a new concern, the company should consider the dividend policy of the rival organisation.
11. Ability to Borrow. Well established and large firms have better access to the capital market than the new Companies and may borrow funds from the external sources if there arises any need. Such Companies may have a better dividend pay-out ratio. Whereas smaller firms have to depend on their internal sources and therefore they will have to built up good reserves by reducing the dividend pay out ratio for meeting any obligation requiring heavy funds.
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 programmes of the existing management. So they prefer to meet the needs through retained earning. 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. Repayments of Loan. A company having loan indebtedness are vowed to a high rate of retention earnings, unless one other arrangements are made for the redemption of debt on maturity. It will naturally lower down the rate of dividend. Sometimes, the lenders (mostly institutional lenders) put restrictions on the dividend distribution still such time their loan is outstanding. Formal loan contracts generally provide a certain standard of liquidity and solvency to be maintained. Management is bound to hour such restrictions and to limit the rate of dividend payout.
14. Time for Payment of Dividend. When should the dividend be paid is another consideration. Payment of dividend means outflow of cash. It is, therefore, desirable to distribute dividend at a time when is least needed by the company because there are peak times as well as lean periods of expenditure. Wise management should plan the payment of dividend in such a manner that there is no cash outflow at a time when the undertaking is already in need of urgent finances.
15. Regularity and stability in Dividend Payment. Dividends should be paid regularly because each investor is interested in the regular payment of dividend. The management should, inspite of regular payment of dividend, consider that the rate of dividend should be all the most constant. For this purpose sometimes companies maintain dividend equalization Fund.
The economic soundness of a company is generally judged by the amount of dividend declared and paid by a company. It affects its goodwill among the shareholders and the prospective share holders.
Dividend is apart of profits distributed among the shareholders. The basic question before the Board of directors is how much profits should be divided among shareholders as dividend and how much to be retained in the business as reserves to meet the future contingencies and for expansion of business. Both-future expansion and distribution of dividend are desirable but in conflict. Hence, allocation of earnings between dividends and retained earnings is an essential part of management functions, it requires a sound dividend policy to be followed by the corporation According to Weston and Brigham “Dividend policy determines the division of earnings between payments to shareholders and retained earnings”. In this connection, the dividend declared during previous years may be taken as a base and the same rate is followed in the coming years. Generally, Board of Directors aim at maintaining the dividend rate which we may call a “Stable Dividend Policy”. For its purpose a ‘dividend equalization fund’ is created out of profits to equalize the profits of the coming years.