There are various types of Preference Shares with differences in their structure. Some of these are cumulative, non-cumulative, participating, non-participating, redeemable, irredeemable, convertible, non-convertible, callable, adjustable-rate preference shares.
Preference shares are like senior citizens of a country who normally get preference at almost everywhere. Just like them, in an investment environment, the company issuing preference shares is required to pay a dividend to them before they offer even a penny to equity shareholders. Similar is the situation in the event of bankruptcy, the residual money is used first to pay to the preference shareholders.
Various types of preference shares are seen in the market based on their different structure, maturity terms, an extent of participation, nature of dividend payment, etc.
Some of the common types of preference shares are as follows:
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Convertible preference shares have a similar concept of convertible debentures. These shares possess an option or right whereby they can be converted into an ordinary equity share at some agreed terms and conditions. Non-convertible simply does not have this option but has all other normal characteristics of a preference share.
A redeemable preference share is very commonly seen preference share which has a maturity date on which date the company will repay the capital amount to the preference shareholders and discontinue the dividend payment thereon. Irredeemable preference shares are little different from other types of preference shares. It does not have any maturity date which makes this instrument very similar to equity except that the dividend of these shares is fixed and they enjoy priority in payment of both dividend and capital over the equity shares. Since there is an absence of maturity, they are also known as perpetual preference share capital.
Participating preference shares are a unique type of preference shares which has an additional benefit of participating in profits of the company apart from the fixed dividend. The distribution may depend on the terms and conditions mentioned in the agreement which may vary to some extent from case to case. Other preference shares who do not participate are called non-participating preference shares. Unless it has been mentioned, that preference shares are participating, it is assumed that it is non participating.
Nonpayment of preference dividend does not amount to bankruptcy but this does not mean that the liability of the company is lost. If the shares are cumulative preference shares, the dividends are accumulated and therefore paid before anything paid to equity shareholders. Even in the event of liquidation, accumulated preference dividend and the preference share capital will be redeemed prior to any payment to equity shareholders. Whereas, for non-cumulative preference shares, if a company does not pay the dividend in the current year, the claim of preference shareholder is lost to that extent. Unless it is specified that preference shares are non-cumulative, it is assumed that it is of cumulative in nature.
Whenever a company is issuing long term fixed rate dividend preference shares, at that time, the company is having a risk of decrease in the rate of preference dividend rate in the market. Hence, it may issue preference share with a callable feature. In that company has a right to redeem preference share in between. Such preference shares will be redeemed at a premium if redeemed in between because the investor will have a loss in that case. The company will exercise such an option if the rate of preference dividend is falling in the market.
These are some of the innovative types of instruments where the rate of dividend is not fixed and is formulated based on some calculations relating to the current interest rates etc.1,2