Dividend Policy of German Firms

M. Goergen, L.D.R. Renneboog, L. Correia Da Silva

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Abstract

German firms pay out a lower proportion of their cash flows than UK and US firms.However, on a published profits basis, the pattern is reversed.Company law provisions and accounting policies account for these conflicting results.A partial adjustment model is used to estimate the implicit target payout ratio and the speed of adjustment of dividends towards a long run target payout ratio. We find that German firms do not base their dividend decisions on published earnings, but on cash flows.The reasons for the use of a cash flow-based payout policy are: (i) published earnings figures do not correctly reflect corporate performance as German firms tend to retain a significant part of their earnings to build up legal reserves, (ii) the conservative nature of German accounting policies, (iii) published earnings are subject to a higher degree of smoothing than cash flows.Regarding the speed of adjustment of dividends towards the long term target payout ratio, UK and US companies only slowly adjust their dividend policy whereas German are more willing to cut the dividend in the wake of a temporary decrease in profitability.This causes a higher degree of 'discreteness' in the dividends-pershare time series as opposed to the 'smoothness' (i.e., frequent annual small adjustments in the dividend per share) observed in the US and the UK.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTilburg
PublisherFinance
Number of pages34
Volume2004-122
Publication statusPublished - 2004

Publication series

NameCentER Discussion Paper
Volume2004-122

Keywords

  • Dividend policy
  • payout policy
  • Lintner dividend model
  • dividend smoothing
  • partial adjustment model
  • corporate governance

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