Definition of dividend
From Middle French dividende, from Latin dividendum ("thing to be divided"), gerund of divido ("to divide").
dividend (plural dividends)
- (arithmetic) A number or expression that is to be divided by another.
In "42 ÷ 3" the dividend is the 42.
- (finance) A pro rata payment of money by a company to its shareholders, usually made periodically (eg, quarterly or annually).
Dividends are payments made by a corporation to its shareholder members. It is the portion of corporate profits paid out to stockholders. When a corporation earns a profit or surplus, that money can be put to two uses: it can either be re-invested in the business (called retained earnings), or it can be paid to the shareholders as a dividend. Many corporations retain a portion of their earnings and pay the remainder as a dividend.
For a joint stock company, a dividend is allocated as a fixed amount per share. Therefore, a shareholder receives a dividend in proportion to their shareholding. For the joint stock company, paying dividends is not an expense; rather, it is the division of an asset among shareholders. Public companies usually pay dividends on a fixed schedule, but may declare a dividend at any time, sometimes called a special dividend to distinguish it from a regular one.
Cooperatives, on the other hand, allocate dividends according to members' activity, so their dividends are often considered to be a pre-tax expense.
Dividends are usually settled on a cash basis, store credits (common among retail consumers' cooperatives) and shares in the company (either newly-created shares or existing shares bought in the market.) Further, many public companies offer dividend reinvestment plans, which automatically use the cash dividend to purchase additional shares for the shareholder.
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