The purpose of this study tests whether political instability influence financial decision-making behavior of Tunisian-listed firms, in particular dividend payout policy.Design/methodology/approachThis paper uses dividend payout decisions announced over the period 2008–2015 by nonfinancial firms listed on the Tunisian Stock Exchange. A logistic regression is applied to analyze the relationship between political instability and dividend payout decision “changes. These latter are: past non-payers” dividend initiation, past payers' dividend termination, dividend payout “increasing and dividend payout” decreasing. Political instability variables used are as follows: number of changes in government head and dummy variables indicating the changes of ruling party and election year.FindingsThis study shows that government head changes are positively related to dividend initiation decisions while changes in ruling party are negatively related to termination dividend decisions except for family controlled ones. These firms are more likely to stop dividend on period of ruling party changes. Moreover, firms become unwilling to increase dividend payment on the period of political instability (changes in ruling party and government head and elections) and become willing to decrease dividend payment only when the government head changes.Practical implicationsThe empirical findings contribute to the current debate on the signaling power of dividend policy in emerging market where raising equity capital is difficult and controlling shareholders prefer reinvest benefit to pay dividends. In addition, this study has important implications for regulators and governments struggling to design policies to improve investors' confidence and boost market activity. Indeed, investors may use corporate payout as a signal for better governance.Originality/valueTo the author' best knowledge, this paper is the first to investigate and to compare the effect of three political instability sources; government head changes, changes in ruling party and elections, on dividend payout decision changes. This paper provides evidence that firms facing political unstable environment seek to achieve two goals when they make dividend policy: reducing financial distress probability and attracting minority owners.
EuroMed Journal of Business – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jun 22, 2020
Keywords: Emerging economies; Dividend policy; Political instability; Family control; Government head changes; Ruling party changes