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Corporate governance and financial policies: Influence of board characteristics on the dividend policy of Australian firms

Subba Reddy Yarram (UNE Business School, University of New England, Armidale, Australia)
Brian Dollery (UNE Business School, University of New England, Armidale, Australia)

Managerial Finance

ISSN: 0307-4358

Article publication date: 9 March 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the influence of board structure on dividend policy of Australian corporate firms. It also considers the traditional explanations of corporate dividend choice, such as agency cost theory, signalling hypothesis, the life cycle hypothesis along with tax-based explanations of dividend policy.

Design/methodology/approach

The final sample consists of 413 non-financial firms that are part of the All Ordinaries Index. The causal analysis was undertaken in three stages. In the first stage, the authors analyse the likelihood of paying dividends. And classify all firms as either dividend payers or non-payers. The authors then model this binary variable as a function of different sets of variables. In the second stage, the authors analyse the factors determining the magnitude of dividend payout by those firms that have paid a dividend. In contrast, stage three employs all firms – those which did not pay any dividend and those firms which paid a dividend.

Findings

For the study period 2004-2009, this study finds that board independence has a significant positive influence on the dividend payout of Australian firms. This finding is consistent with the “outcome” model of La Porta et al. (2000). This study also finds that size has a significant positive influence on the dividend payout of Australian firms thus providing support for the agency cost view of dividend policy. Similarly, this study also finds support for the signalling hypothesis and the life cycle theory given the significant positive influence of profitability and the significant negative influence of current losses and growth opportunities on the dividend policy of Australian firms.

Research limitations/implications

The findings of the study are robust with to alternative measures of variables employed and are not influenced by the global financial crisis. However, this study did not consider the possible endogenous and multiple relationships between dividends, debt, profitability, cash holdings and governance structures given the limited study period considered.

Practical implications

This study finds that board independence has a significant positive influence on the dividend behaviour of Australian firms. This suggests that dividends and independent directors play complementary governance roles. While dividends provide the monitoring and disciplinary roles, independent directors act as catalysts for enhancing effective board functioning. These findings have implications for corporate governance policies and the payout policies.

Originality/value

Though the governance role of dividends has long been recognized in the literature (Easterbrook, 1984; Jensen, 1986), very few studies analyse the influence of board characteristics on the decision to pay dividends in Australia. Given the distinct Australian setting where the tax imputation system allows companies to pay franked dividends to domestic investors, this study provides evidence on the interaction of corporate and dividend policies. This study finds that dividend polices are influenced by percentage franking of dividends. This study also finds that board independence has a significant positive influence on the dividend policy of Australian firms.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the two anonymous referees and the Editor for their constructive suggestions. Usual disclaimers apply.

Citation

Yarram, S.R. and Dollery, B. (2015), "Corporate governance and financial policies: Influence of board characteristics on the dividend policy of Australian firms ", Managerial Finance, Vol. 41 No. 3, pp. 267-285. https://doi.org/10.1108/MF-03-2014-0086

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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