What Do Dividend Reductions Signal?
Posted: 25 May 2011
Date Written: December 1, 2010
Dividend reductions have long been considered a "last resort" action for firm managers. Managerial reluctance to reduce dividends emanates from the view that dividend drops signal managerial pessimism regarding future earnings. Contrary to expectations, studies show that earnings rebound significantly following a dividend reduction; yet investors react negatively to the dividend-drop announcement. We present an explanation for the anomalous behavior of earnings and returns around the time of a dividend drop. Our evidence suggests that a reduction in a firm's established dividend coincides with a decrease in the value of the firm's real options. Earnings rebound following the dividend reduction due to the savings that result as the firm allows growth options to expire; however, announcement period returns suggest that investors recognize the lost value associated with the forthcoming expiration of growth options.
Keywords: Dividends, Dividend changes, Signaling, Real options
JEL Classification: G35, G32, G31, G14, G34
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation