Sebi mulls mandatory ‘Dividend Policy’ for listed companies

As a debate continues about IPO- bound airline IndiGo doling out hefty dividend payouts to its promoters, markets regulator Sebi is mulling making it must for all listed companies to have a stated ''Dividend Policy''.
The move is aimed at helping the investors identify stocks with greater return potential, but the proposed ''Distribution Distribution Policy'' would not mean forcing the companies to pay the dividend, a senior official said.
Rather, it would require the listed companies as also those looking to get listed through Initial Public Offer (IPO) route to state the circumstances under which their shareholders can or cannot expect a payout, he added.
InterGlobe Aviation, which runs the low-cost air carrier IndiGo, has faced criticism from some quarters in recent days upon disclosure in its IPO papers about a dividend payout to the promoters leading to a negative networth for the company.
A final decision may, however, take some time as Sebi is looking to first issue a consultation paper in this regard and the final policy would be framed after taking into account suggestions from all the stakeholders, including the government, companies and investor groups.
The policy may also require the companies to disclose a broad formula for dividend calculation.
 At the same time, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) would steer clear of any directive being given to the companies to pay any particular dividend amount as it wants to focus on disclosures rather than being intrusive into financial decisions of the companies, the official said.
Sebi''s International Advisory Body has also suggested to that companies as a policy should not be forced to pay dividend and it is a better idea to explore mandating a Dividend Distribution Policy for corporates.
The move follows complaints from a large number of investors during Annual General Meetings that companies are not paying dividend despite sitting on huge cash piles.
Besides raising their voice on this issue before the company management and the promoters at the AGMs, various groups of investors have also written to Sebi in this regard.
There have been quite a few cases where some large groups have broken years-long tradition of paying dividend.
The new policy would seek to encourage the companies to pay dividends if their financials permit so, so that the investors can feel that they are also part of the concerned company''s growth story.
This would also bring in certainty among investors that they can expect a certain portion if the company does well.
Globally also, investors have been raising their voice against the companies that are hoarding cash and not distributing their extra profits among the shareholders.
A number of companies in India already have a dividend distribution policy, but it is not mandatory under any regulation and therefore there is no uniformity in such policies of different corporates.
Till about a few years ago, dividend payouts used to be a major attraction for stock market investors, but share price appreciation has become more important now and therefore many companies have also cut down on dividends.

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