Cross‐sectional differences in the profits, returns and risk of firms initiating dividends

Neil L. Fargher (Department of Accounting and Finance, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia)
Robert A. Weigand (Washburn University School of Business, Topeka, Kansas, USA)

Managerial Finance

ISSN: 0307-4358

Publication date: 8 May 2009


Purpose– The purpose of this paper is to examine cross‐sectional differences in the profits, returns and risk of high‐ and low‐market‐to‐book ratios (M/B) stocks before and after the initiation of regular cash dividend payments. Design/methodology/approach– This study uses parametric and non‐parametric statistics and ordinary least squares regression to test for differences in the profits, returns and risk of high‐ and low‐M/B stocks before and after dividend initiation. Findings– Low‐M/B stocks display the most positive price reaction to dividend initiation announcements. High‐M/B firms have larger profits, cash levels and capital expenditure before and at the time of dividend initiation, but more closely resemble the low‐M/B firms in terms of these characteristics within three years following dividend initiation. Excess returns earned by low‐M/B firms are related to decreases in systematic risk, while the returns of high‐M/B firms are related to their higher profitability. Research limitations/implications– Averaging results from 1965‐2000 does not account for possible changes in the information content of dividend initiations over time (as evidenced by steadily declining dividend yields over this period). Practical implications– The findings are consistent with the idea that firms begin paying dividends as they are maturing into a slower growth period, and do not support the idea that dividend initiation signals faster future earnings growth. Originality/value– The analysis adds to the body of knowledge by explicitly conditioning the expectations from various dividend theories based upon individual firms’ growth phase as reflected in their M/B ratios, and suggests that signaling, agency and risk explanations for dividends must be considered jointly with a firm's growth prospects when studying dividend events.



Fargher, N. and Weigand, R. (2009), "Cross‐sectional differences in the profits, returns and risk of firms initiating dividends", Managerial Finance, Vol. 35 No. 6, pp. 509-530.

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