Original Research

The association between ownership concentration and payout behaviour: Evidence from South Africa

Rudie Nel, Nicolene Wesson, Lee-Ann Steenkamp
Acta Commercii | Vol 21, No 1 | a965 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ac.v21i1.965 | © 2021 Rudie Nel, Nicolene Wesson, Lee-Ann Steenkamp | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 June 2021 | Published: 25 October 2021

About the author(s)

Rudie Nel, School of Accountancy, Faculty of Economic Management Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Nicolene Wesson, University of Stellenbosch Business School, Faculty of Economic Management Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Lee-Ann Steenkamp, University of Stellenbosch Business School, Faculty of Economic Management Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa


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Abstract

Orientation: The study investigated the association between ownership concentration and different payout methods of selected companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) in South Africa for the financial reporting periods 2012 to 2019.

Research purpose: The research objective was to investigate whether payout behaviour differed when low and high ownership concentration was compared.

Motivation for the study: An understanding of the association between ownership concentration and payout policies is an important corporate governance aspect that could reveal the agency conflict between majority and minority shareholders. No previous South African empirical study has considered testing or investigating the two opposing agency-based hypotheses, namely the monitoring and rent extraction hypotheses, with reference to different payout methods.

Research design, approach, and method: An empirical research design was followed, which is descriptive in nature. Descriptive statistics and a mixed-model analysis of variance were employed to describe the different payout methods – that is ordinary dividends, special dividends, capital distributions, additional shares, general share repurchases, and specific share repurchases – employed by companies listed on the JSE based on a distinction between low and high ownership concentration.

Main findings: High ownership concentration was found to be associated with statistically significant lower ordinary dividends and capital distributions in support of the rent extraction hypothesis. Rent extraction highlights the agency conflict between majority and minority shareholders.

Practical/managerial implications: Findings of the present study revealed agency conflicts that may be informative to those charged with corporate governance to help them resolve agency conflict.

Contribution/value-add: This study is the first to consider the association between ownership concentration and payout behaviour in South Africa subsequent to the introduction of the dividends tax regime in 2012. The descriptive evidence submitted can serve as a basis for further explanatory research relating to ownership concentration and payout behaviour of companies.


Keywords

corporate governance; Herfindahl index; ownership concentration; payout methods; payout policies; rent extraction hypothesis

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