What are Preferred Shares? – A Company issues two types or classes of shares – Common Shares and Preferred Shares. Common or Equity share represents ownership in a Company. Holders of Common share may or may not be entitled to dividend, depending upon the profitability of the Company. On the other hand, preference share entitles its holders to a fixed dividend irrespective of the profitability of the Company. Dividends received on the preferred stock are known as preferred dividend.
In this guide, we discuss Preferred Shares and Preferred Dividends in depth.
- What are Preferred Shares?
- Preferred Shares dividends Calculation
- Top 6 Types of Preference Shares
- Is preferred share equity or debt?
- Users of Preferred shares
A Company issues two types or classes of shares – Common and Preferred. Common or Equity share represents ownership in a Company. Holders of Common share may or may not be entitled to dividend, depending upon the profitability of the Company. On the other hand, preference share entitles its holders to a fixed dividend irrespective of the profitability of the Company. Dividends received on the preferred stock are known as preferred dividend. They are known as preferred because in case a Company is unable to pay all dividends, claims to preferred dividends will take precedence over claims to dividends paid on equity shares.
source: Diana Shipping
Preferred Share dividends Calculation
Let’s understand the calculation of preferred dividend with the help of illustration
Mr. X owns 20,000, 10 percent preferred shares which were issued at a par value of $50 per share. Currently stock is trading at NYSE at $60, then:
Preferred Dividend Calculation
The dividend per share of preferred shares = $50 * 10% = $5
Total Preferred Dividends = 10,000 shares * $50 * 6.5% = $32,500
For calculation of preferred dividend, multiply the par value or issue value of the preferred shares by the dividend percentage. Dividend percentage is stated in prospectus of the preferred shares. Alternatively, percentage is also stated in the share certificate issued by the Company.
Preferred Dividend Yield Calculation
Dividend yield ratio = 5/60* 100% = 8.33%
Dividend per Share / Market Price per Share * 100%
Top 6 Types of Preferred Shares
#1 – Cumulative Preference Shares
In cumulative preferred shares, preferred dividend always gets accumulated for subsequent years. Such type of preferred shares includes provision, where in, company is required to pay all dividends – Present as well as past, in subsequent years.
source: Hanesbrands Inc
#2 – Non-Cumulative Preference shares
In case of non cumulative preferred shares there are no legal obligation on the company to pay past accumulated dividends. If a company does not pay dividends on account of business exigency or otherwise, shareholders have no right to claim unpaid dividend in the future.
#3 – Convertible Preference shares
This type of shares gives it holders a legal right but not an obligation to exchange for a predetermined number of company’s equity or common stock. Conversion may occur at a predetermined time or at any time the investor chooses. Conversion occurs at an exercise price, which is always a predetermined price. This type of preferred shares provides its holder to participate in the equity shares by way of conversion.
#4 – Participating Preference shares
It provides shareholders an opportunity to receive additional dividends apart from normal regular dividends. Additional dividends are paid by the company on achieving certain predetermined milestones like achieving certain amount of revenue, net profit or some other benchmarks. Shareholders continue to receive their regular dividend regardless of company achieving predetermined milestone.
#5 – Perpetual Preference shares
These type of preferred shares do not have any maturity period. In case of perpetual preferred shares, initial invested capital is never returned to the shareholders. Shareholders continue to receive preferred dividend for infinite period. Most of preferred shares falls into this category.
source: General Finance
#6 – Prior Preference shares
Company generally issues more than one type of preference shares i.e. they may issue convertible, non-convertible, participating and etc. Any preferred share which is designated as prior preferred stock by the company will have prior claim on dividends over other types of preference stock. Therefore, it can be said that prior preferred have less credit risk than other preferred stocks. Let’s understand this with the help of simple illustration.
Prior Preferred Share Example
Company X Inc. has following outstanding preference shares.
6% Series X perpetual preferred shares – 5 mn
6% Series Z Prior preferred shares – 5 mn
Available cash 300,000
In the above case, dividend will be paid as follows.
Dividend to be paid on Series x = $300,000 (5mn * 6%)
Dividend to be paid on Series z = $300,000 (5mn * 6%)
Total dividend to be paid = $600,000
Available cash = $300,000
Since in the above case there is shortage of available cash for payment of total dividend liability, hence only dividend up to $300,000 will be paid to the shareholders. Payment will not be distributed amongst series x and z on proportionate basis. But the entire payment will be made to series Z, prior preference shares, since such shares will always have prior claim on dividends over other types of preference shares.
The above list comprises of the most of the type of preference share issued by the company in the primary and secondary market. In the corporate world, there are various other types of preference shares.
Is Preferred Share equity or debt?
Preferred shares is a hybrid security sharing some features of debt instrument and some of equity.
Equity features of Preferred shares
Like equity, it has perpetual life i.e. infinite life. In the financial statement, it shown under shareholder equity section, not the debt column. While interest payment on debt are tax deductible, preferred dividends are not tax deductible.
Debt features of Preferred shares
Like debt, preference shares has a fixed dividend payout as stock carries fixed dividend rate. In fact, investing in preference shares is more like investing in a debt instrument rather than equity, since almost all the returns comes out in form of dividends.
- As it can be seen from the above stated facts, preference shares exhibits the features of both equity and debt, hence classification of preference shares under debt or equity would depend upon the type and nature of preferred stock.
- Perpetual and cumulative preferred stock can easily be classified as debt instrument since dividends received from them are fixed and invested capital never gets refunded on account of their infinite time period.
- Whereas, non-cumulative and convertible preference shares are classified as equity.
- Hence, it can be said that the type of preferred shares plays an important role with respect to classification of preference shares.
Users of Preferred Shares
- Cost of preference share is more than the cost of debt but less than the cost of equity instrument. The reason is simple; cost depends upon the riskiness associated with the instrument.
- Amongst all the three instrument mentioned above, the financial risk in holding an equity stock is far greater due to tax advantages of interest payments and uncertainties associated with its dividend payment.
- On the other hand, cost of preference is greater than cost of debt on account of the tax advantages of interest payments.
- Despite it being costlier than the debt, it is preferred by large number companies for raising additional capital.
- Among US companies, the biggest issuers of preferred shares are the financial service companies (banks, insurance companies) and there is a simple reason for it.
- While it may be more expensive than conventional debt, it is counted as equity by the regulatory authorities while computing capital ratios for banks.
Over the years, preferred shares have become quite popular instrument used by the corporates for raising capital. Preferred shares combines features of both types of instrument – Debt and Equity. Though preferred dividend payment depends upon number of factors such as availability of cash, profitability of company. But the shareholders right to receive is absolute and is not affected by above factors. In case of shortage of funds, it is paid at a later date. All this factors have contributed to the growing popularity of the preferred shares over the other forms of investments.