An empirical model of choice between share purchase and dividends for companies in selected JSE listed sectors

Wesson, Nicolene (2015-04)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Share repurchases were allowed in South Africa as from 1 July 1999. The concept of repurchasing shares is therefore relatively new in this country, compared to many other countries (e.g. the United States of America and the United Kingdom), where it is an established practice. Considerable research in the field already exists, providing empirical evidence on the extent of share repurchase activities and current theoretical thinking on the motivations for share repurchases and the determinants affecting the choice of payout methods. In South Africa there are indications, as this study demonstrates, that research on payout methods and payout reform has become a matter of urgency. Share repurchase activity by JSE-listed companies is not comprehensively recorded by South African financial data sources. Prior research on South African share repurchases is limited, mainly owing to the fact that a comprehensive share repurchase database is not available. This study sets out to document the extent of share repurchases by companies in selected JSE-listed sectors (for reporting periods including 1 July 1999 to the 2009 year-ends of the companies) and to test whether empirical evidence and current theoretical thinking also applied in South Africa. The results of these tests were used to develop a model to ascertain what the significant determinants were when a JSE-listed company had to decide between repurchasing shares and paying special dividends. This study found that the South African regulatory environment pertaining to share repurchases differed from the regulatory environments of other countries. The main differences related to the share repurchase announcement structure (namely the JSE Listings Requirements that open market share repurchases need to be announced via SENS only once a 3% limit has been reached) and that subsidiaries are allowed to repurchase shares in the holding company (and have a tax benefit when compared to share repurchases made by the holding company itself). These differences affected the results of this study. On compiling a database on share repurchases by companies in selected JSE-listed sectors, it was found that the share repurchase announcements (made via SENS) could not be used as the main source to compile comprehensive share repurchase data (mainly owing to the 3% rule on open market share repurchases). Annual report disclosures were therefore scrutinised to obtain share repurchase data for this study. These disclosures were found to be applied inconsistently by companies (mainly because subsidiaries were allowed to repurchase shares in the holding company; International Financial Reporting Standards and the JSE Listings Requirements did not adequately cater for the differing South African regulatory environment in their disclosure stipulations; and compliance to the disclosure requirements were not adequately monitored). Consequently, an extensive process of verification was applied in order to compile a comprehensive and reliable share repurchase database for this study. When testing whether empirical evidence and current theoretical thinking on share repurchases also applied in South Africa, it was found that the unique South African regulatory environment led to certain aspects of the South African share repurchase experience not mirroring the global precedent. The main differences between the South African and global share repurchase evidence which emerged from the present study are that the open market share repurchase type is not the outright favoured repurchase type (as is the case globally); that subsidiaries repurchasing shares in the holding company are the favoured South African share repurchasing entity (as opposed to subsidiaries not being allowed to repurchase shares in most other countries); and that share repurchases announced via SENS do not represent comprehensive share repurchase data (as opposed to global security exchanges requiring share repurchase announcements on a regular and accurate actual-time basis). When testing the current theoretical thinking on the information-signalling motivation for share repurchases, it was found that the motivation for South African open market and pro rata share repurchases mirrored the current theoretical thinking. Open market share repurchases were found to be motivated by the information-signalling hypothesis, while the short-term abnormal returns of pro rata offers were offset by the negative abnormal returns over the long term. A share repurchase type unique to the South African share repurchase environment (namely the repurchase of treasury shares by the holding company) was found not to be motivated by the information-signalling hypothesis. This study also found that companies repurchasing shares were generally classified as value companies (which tend to be undervalued) prior to the repurchase transaction which mirrored the current theoretical thinking. In developing a model of choice to determine what the main determinants were when a company had to decide between open market share repurchases and special dividends, this study found that some of the South African determinants mirrored the current theoretical thinking, but also identified determinants which were not identified as significant determinants in global research. This study found that ownership structure, size of the distribution and level of company undervaluation were the significant factors which affected a company’s choice of payout method. It was found that smaller companies, with fewer shareholders and more public investors favoured open market share repurchases over special dividends. Open market share repurchases were found to be selected for smaller distributions when compared to special dividends. Companies paying special dividends were found to exhibit lower degrees of undervaluation when compared to companies which repurchased shares in the open market. This study found that share repurchases became a popular means of distributing excess cash as from 2005. A total amount of about R384 billion was spent on share repurchases during the reporting periods including 1 July 1999 to the 2009 year-ends of the companies included in the population of this study. Share repurchases did not exceed dividend payments over the target period and represented about 36 per cent of total payouts. In 2009, the final year of the study, share repurchases represented about 44 per cent of total payouts. The results of this study showed that investors would benefit over the long term when investing in companies which repurchased shares in the open market. It was also found that there were certain characteristics which were evident in companies when choosing open market share repurchases rather than special dividend payments. This study concluded that the South African regulatory environment possesses many characteristics of a developing economy’s financial systems. Suggestions are given on how to improve and better align the South African repurchasing environment to those of developed economies.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/97082
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