Once a company has decided to pay the dividends, the dividend payment process starts. The dividend payment chronology is quite standardized but may have some variations in different markets.
Here we will look at the common and important dates in the chronology:
Declaration date: This is the first date on timeline on which the company officially declares a dividend, be it a regular dividend or any other type of dividend. The company’s board authorizes the dividend payment and it is announced. On this date, the company will also announce the record date and the actual payment date for the dividend.
Ex-dividend date: Also called the ex-date, it is the date from which the stock starts trading without dividend. So, any investor who purchases the stock on or after the ex-date will do so at the post-dividend price. Any investor who owns the stock before this date will receive the dividends. In most global markets, the ex-dividend date is set two days before the record date. This is done to adjust for the settlement cycle, which is T+3. In markets like Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the ex-date is one day before the record date because they have T+2 settlement cycle.
Record date: Also called holder-of-record date, this is the date on which the shareholders with the ownership of the stock are designated to receive the dividend. This date is usually two days after the ex-dividend date. This date is determined by the company and is generally one week to one month after the declaration date.
Payment date: This is the date on which the dividend is actually paid out to the shareholders. This date is also decided by the company and can fall on any date including a public holiday. The time between the record date and payment date can vary from a few days to a month or more.
For cash dividends, most companies will usually have a set schedule for dividend payments.