There are several theories which try to look at the relevancy or irrelevancy of dividend payment. We shall discuss some of these theories:
1. M-M dividend irrelevancy theory
This theory was proposed by Franco Modgliani and Merton Miller in 1961 who argued that the value of the firm is determined by the basic earning power and the firm's risk and not by the distribution of earnings. The value of the firm therefore depends on the investment decisions but not the dividend decision. Their argument was however based on the following assumptions:
(a) No corporate or personal taxes
(b) No transaction costs associated with share floatation (The market is perfect and frictionless)
(c) The firm's investment policy is independent of the dividend policy
(d) The market is efficient and therefore investors and managers have the same set of information regarding future investment opportunities.
They were able to prove that dividend is irrelevant in the determination of the value of the firm using the dividend yield model.
(2) The Bird-in-hand theory
This theory was advanced by Myron Gordon and John Litner in 1963 who argued that a bird in hand is worth two in the bush and thus when a shareholder receives cash dividend he is better off than one receiving capital gain.
Investors therefore value dividend more than capital gains and a firm that pays dividend will have a higher market value.
They concluded that dividend decisions are relevant and a firm that pays higher dividend has higher value.
(3) Tax differential theory
This theory was advanced by Litzenberger and Ramaswamy in 1979 who noted that the tax rate on dividend is higher than the rate on capital gain (In Kenya Capital gain tax has been suspended). A firm that pays dividend will therefore have a lower value since shareholders will pay taxes on this dividend. Dividend decisions are relevant and a firm that pays no dividend has the highest value.
(4) Signalling theory
Stephen Ross in 1977 argued that in an inefficient market, management can use dividend payment to signal important information to the market which is only known to them. If management increases dividend, it signals expected high profit and therefore share prices will increase. Therefore dividend decisions are relevant and a firm that pays higher dividend will have a higher value (especially in an inefficient market).
(5) The Clientele effect theory
This theory was proposed by Richardson Pettit in 1977 who stated that different groups of shareholders have different preference for dividend. For example the low income earners will prefer higher dividend to meet their consumption needs while the high income earners will prefer less dividend so as to avoid the payment of taxes. Therefore when a firm sets a certain dividend policy there will be shifting of investors to it and out of it until equilibrium position is reached. At equilibrium, the dividend policy set by the firm will be consistent with the clientele it has. Therefore dividend decision is an irrelevant decision especially at equilibrium.