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Why do firms pay dividends? International evidence on the determinants of dividend policy

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  • Denis, David J.
  • Osobov, Igor

Abstract

In the US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, and Japan, the propensity to pay dividends is higher among larger, more profitable firms, and those for which retained earnings comprise a large fraction of total equity. Although there are hints of reductions in the propensity to pay dividends in most of the sample countries over the 1994-2002 period, they are driven by a failure of newly listed firms to initiate dividends when expected to do so. Dividend abandonment and the failure to initiate by existing nonpayers are economically unimportant except in Japan. Moreover, in each country, aggregate dividends have not declined and are concentrated among the largest, most profitable firms. Finally, outside of the US there is little evidence of a systematic positive relation between relative prices of dividend paying and non-paying firms and the propensity to pay dividends. Overall, these findings cast doubt on signaling, clientele, and catering explanations for dividends, but support agency cost-based lifecycle theories.

Suggested Citation

  • Denis, David J. & Osobov, Igor, 2008. "Why do firms pay dividends? International evidence on the determinants of dividend policy," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 62-82, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jfinec:v:89:y:2008:i:1:p:62-82
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