The cash dividend payment procedures of a company have four critical dates.
- Declaration date (also known as announcement date)
- Ex-dividend date
- Record date
- Payment date
Breaking down the dividend payment procedure
The declaration date is the starting point for the dividend payment procedure. On this date, the board of directors officially announces the payout of cash dividends. The released document also contains information about the amount of dividends per share, the ex-dividend date, the record date, and the payment date. Since the dividends are declared, they become the legal responsibility of the company!
The ex-dividend date is a cutoff point for new investors in the dividend payment procedure. All investors who have bought shares on this date or later are not eligible for cash dividends. Investors who owned shares before the ex-dividend date will be included in the shareholder register.
This date is also very important for stock traders. On this date, the stock price usually drops by the amount of declared cash dividends per share.
The ex-dividend date is usually 1–3 business days before the record date.
This date is critical in the dividend payment procedure. The management of a company compiles a shareholder register, which includes shareholders eligible for cash dividends. Such a cutoff date is necessary since owners of actively traded stocks change quite often.
If any investor expects to receive cash dividends, the record date should be kept in mind when buying or selling shares. Each stock exchange publishes a dividend calendar; for example, you can see the NASDAQ dividend calendar by clicking on this link.
The payment date finalizes the dividend payment procedure. On this date, a company pays out cash dividends to all eligible shareholders who were included in the shareholder register on the record date.
Let’s assume that on 09/11/20X8 the board of directors of Total S.E. Inc. announced a payment in cash dividends of $0,744 per share on 10/19/20X8. The record date is set as 09/24/20X8.
Therefore, the ex-dividend date falls on a business date before 09/24/20X8. For example, if 09/24/20X8 is a Wednesday, the ex-dividend date will be Tuesday 09/23/20X8, but if the record date falls on Monday, the ex-dividend date will be the previous Friday (if it is a business day).
If any investor intends to purchase shares of Total S.E. Inc. and receive cash dividends, it should be done before the ex-dividend date! Otherwise, investors will not be included in the shareholder register on 09/24/2018 and won’t be eligible to receive cash dividends.