DP14571 The Covid-19 Pandemic and Corporate Dividend Policy

Author(s): Georg Cejnek, Otto Randl, Josef Zechner
Publication Date: April 2020
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Programme Areas: Financial Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=14571

Important dimensions of dividend behavior are not well understood. How do dividends behave in extreme states of the world? Why is the risk premium on dividend claims so high? Would dividend bans in crisis states have plausible effects on firms' cost of capital? In this paper we use evidence from the ongoing Corona pandemic to shed light on these questions. We find that, contrary to the folklore that near-future dividends are smoother than earnings or share prices, the opposite is true in disaster states. It appears that firms do not fulfill their role as liquidity intermediaries for their shareholders in precisely those states, in which predictable cash payments would be valued most highly. This is consistent with the apparent puzzle that near-maturity dividend futures have provided investors with "anomalously" high returns in the past years. In light of the recent Corona disaster, these risk premia are consistent with compensation for negative co-skewness and exposure to disaster risk. Our findings imply that policy setters who consider banning dividends in a crisis should take into account the potential effect this is likely to have on firms' future cost of capital.