What Is Cumulative Preferred Stock?

Cumulative preferred stock is a kind of preferred stock that accumulates unpaid dividends in the event that a corporation ceases dividend payments, therefore increasing the security of its investors.

When providing preferred stock, a startup may consider cumulative preferred stock. Preferred stock is a dependable source of finance for a corporation or business. The vast majority of preferred stocks pay dividends to owners, and in reality, the dividend represents the majority of the return associated with preferred stock. Variable rules govern how dividends must be paid in the future if a corporation fails to pay a dividend on preferred stock.

What is the definition of cumulative preferred stock?

Cumulative preferred stock is an equity instrument that pays a set dividend on a predetermined schedule prior to any payments to the holders of common stock. Typically, the dividend amount is determined by the stock’s par value. Thus, a 5% dividend on preferred shares with a par value of $100 results in a $5 dividend.

Before dividend distributions may be given to the holders of a company’s common stock, any delinquent past dividend payments must also be paid. Typically, this occurs when a firm has cash flow problems, and its board of directors decides to temporarily withhold dividend payments until cash flow problems resolve.

The number of unpaid dividends is stated in the notes accompanying a company’s financial statements for as long as it has not paid dividends as planned. Preferred stock is also known as cumulative preferred shares and preference shares. In Europe, cumulative preferred stock is referred to as cumulative preference shares.

The basics of preferred stock

The notion of preferred stock is rather straightforward. Investors who own preferred stock have two advantages over common shareholders: they enjoy a liquidation preference over holders of common stock in the event of company liquidation, and they have the right to receive preferred-stock dividends before common shareholders are entitled to dividend payments.

Traditionally preferred shares act more like bonds than stocks, with share values lingering near their redemption value and yields reflecting their position as subordinate to all bondholders in the issuing company’s capital structure. However, unlike bondholders, preferred shareholders have no inherent claim to the company’s dividends. If the firm decides not to pay dividends on preferred stock, the sole consequence is that it cannot pay dividends on its ordinary stock.

Characteristics of cumulative preferred stocks

Cumulative Preferred Stocks are among the organization’s most common equity financing methods. These are their defining characteristics:

This class of shareholders is entitled to dividends for a given year, regardless of whether or not the corporation has declared dividends for that year.

Preference Shareholders lack the right to vote, meaning they have no say in the company’s management or leadership.

They are regarded as a long-term financing source that does not have a maturity date; hence, the funds obtained via the sale of cumulative preferred shares do not need to be repaid.

A predetermined dividend rate must be paid regardless of the company’s earnings level.

Preferred Cumulative Stockholders are entitled to their preferred right to dividends.

How does cumulative preferred stock work?

In order to conserve capital, a startup may postpone dividend distributions if it experiences financial difficulties. Once these economic concerns have been overcome, the startup may seek to resume dividend dividends. If the company has issued cumulative, permanent preferred stock, these missed (or stopped) dividend payments must be paid to the perpetual preferred stockholders first. Other preferred or common shareholders must look forward to receiving any dividend payments that have been missed, or they may not be entitled to the dividend payments at all, as discussed in further detail below.

Here is a more concrete illustration of the above:

Consider a scenario in which a company offers cumulative preferred stock with a par value of $10,000 and an annual dividend rate of 6%. Thus, the company should pay $600 per year dividends to cumulative preferred stockholders.

The economy comes to a grinding halt as a result of a global epidemic. In such a circumstance, the company would be unable to make dividend payments. The economy continues to languish for another year, resulting in no dividend payments for two years.

The following year, the economy recovers, and the startup resumes dividend payments. However, they owe cumulative dividends to preferred stockholders from the preceding two years. The company must pay cumulative preferred stockholders $600 for every two years in which dividends on each share were not paid. Therefore, cumulative preferred stockholders are entitled to $1,200 for each of these shareholders for each cumulative preferred share held. Before any other shareholder may get a dividend payment, this must occur first.

Note that you may get these dividend payments in installments. However, if you select this path, you cannot pay dividends to other shareholders until all missing dividend payments have been made.

What kinds of cumulative preferred stock exist?

Similar to other forms of stock, cumulative preferred stock can be classified into many groups. Here are some considerations:

Value stocks: Value stocks have a low price-to-earnings (PE) ratio, indicating that the stock’s price is low relative to its historical or anticipated earnings and is, therefore, possibly undervalued. Income or growth stocks may constitute value stocks. However, many investors like value stocks because they anticipate a price rebound following a market drop. In 2022, value stocks include Berkshire Hathaway, Johnson & Johnson, and Procter & Gamble, among others. These stocks have relatively low values relative to their profits and prospects for long-term development.

An investor should invest in income stocks if you desire reliable dividends. These stocks pay dividends on a regular basis, providing investors with stable income. Real estate, utilities, financial services, and energy are industries where income stocks are commonly located.

Growth stocks, on the other hand, pay dividends seldom. This is due to the fact that these stocks “provide a significantly greater growth rate than the market’s average growth,” creating earnings faster. Meta (previously Facebook), Netflix, and Amazon have been examples of growth stocks.

Blue-chip stocks are shares of well-established corporations, not startups. These are the most popular stocks for investors to purchase due to their consistent profitability and representation on respected stock exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchange, S&P 500, and Nasdaq 100. The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO), The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS), and Apple Inc. are examples of blue-chip stocks (NASDAQ: AAPL).

What is the significance of cumulative preferred stock?

The cumulative feature provides cumulative preferred stockholders with an investing benefit. It also gives your organization additional influence in talks with investors over shareholder rights such as voting and in requesting a higher price for preferred shares.

Positive aspects of cumulative preferred stock

Compared to all other market-available stocks, cumulative preferred stocks are the safest in terms of financial security. The rationale for this is that they will always receive their dividend regardless of the company’s success.

These stockholders have the opportunity of receiving dividends before other corporate shareholders.

The guaranteed cumulative dividend reduces the risk for investors, allowing them to pay more per share.

The decreased risk may also result in a lower fixed dividend amount compared to non-cumulative shares.

Compared to non-cumulative preferred shareholders, cumulative preferred stockholders are more comfortable giving up voting rights or board participation due to increased protection.

In the unfortunate event of a company’s collapse, cumulative preferred stockholders receive their settlements earlier than other stockholders.

In the event of a financial disaster, the corporation should grant cumulative preferred stockholders the right to demand the dividend. If dividends are not paid at that time, they are accumulated and given to cumulative preferred stockholders when business dividends return to normal.

Such stockholders may receive a greater rate of return if the firm experiences a prosperous year.

Negative aspects of cumulative preferred stock

In comparison to other stockholders, the major disadvantage is that they lack voting rights.

These stockholders will always get the set dividend, regardless of the company’s annual performance. In contrast, other stockholders will get dividend payments according to the company’s earnings.

The cumulative preferred stock is more expensive than other stocks on the market because it has additional advantages.

They may get dividend payments that are incomplete or delayed from the corporation.

The dividends are set, but in the case of any other stocks, such as loans, the management must also pay the debt interest to the holder, and this payment cannot be delayed.

These stockholders are not eligible to receive dividends in the middle of the year, and they are not permitted quarterly dividends and are only paid annually.

What is non-cumulative preferred stock?

A type of preferred stock is non-cumulative preferred stock, and it does not provide a provision for unpaid dividends. If a corporation confronts a crisis or decline and decides not to pay dividends, the stakeholders have no claim to the omitted or underpaid stocks. These stocks’ dividend yields are predetermined.

Non-cumulative preferred stocks allow corporations to forego dividends without any obligation to shareholders. The corporation is only obligated to pay dividends for the current fiscal year. It places shareholders in an unclear situation regarding the payment of dividends and creates a financial risk.

During the distribution of dividends, non-cumulative preferred stockholders are accorded precedence and preference over common shareholders. If the firm or corporation is experiencing financial difficulties, the board of directors may vote to eliminate, cut, or postpone dividends. In such a scenario, investors have no recourse, and their dividend is gone permanently.

The previously missed dividends do not appear when the subsequent dividend is announced in arrears. The non-cumulative stock investment helps the corporation to manage its cash flow with adaptability and flexibility. The ability to suspend dividends without penalty grants the corporation financial control.

Principal distinctions between non-cumulative and cumulative preferred stocks

Cumulative stocks accrue unpaid dividends and pay them out when announced, but non-cumulative stocks do not pay unpaid dividends.

A cumulative dividend must be paid, but a non-cumulative dividend might be permanently lost and never paid.

Cumulative stockholders have the right to claim missing dividends, but non-cumulative stockholders have no right to claim missed or omitted dividends in the future.

The shareholder value of cumulative stocks is greater than that of non-cumulative stocks.

Low-risk investments are cumulative preferred stocks, whereas high-risk investments are non-cumulative preferred stocks.

Example: cumulative versus non-cumulative preferred stock

Assume that you issue preferred shares with an annual dividend of $5 per share beginning in 2017. In 2019 and 2020, your company experienced a decline and ceased dividend payments, and your firm improved in 2021, allowing you to resume dividend payments.

If your preferred shares are non-cumulative, you can immediately pay common shareholders dividends in 2021 after paying the $5 per share dividend to preferred shareholders.

If the shares are cumulative, common shareholders cannot receive dividends until all current and accrued preferred dividends have been paid. To pay common shareholders dividends in 2021, you would need to pay preferred shareholders a total of $15 per share for dividends in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

You may also make the payments in installments. You may, for instance, give preferred shareholders a dividend of $10 per share in 2021 to cover 2019 and 2021, followed by another dividend of $10 per share in 2022 to cover 2020 and 2022. In this instance, you may begin distributing dividends to common shareholders immediately following the preferred shareholder dividend payment in 2022.

What is cumulative perpetual preferred stock?

Additionally, perpetual preferred stock is a type of preferred stock. It provides a set dividend to stockholders for the duration of the company’s existence. The dividend amount is established at the time of share issuance, and quarterly dividends are common.

In contrast to non-perpetual preferred stock, perpetual preferred stock does not mature on a set date. In other words, the perpetual preferred stock might pay dividends eternally (depending on the survival of the business) if the company continues to exist.

However, perpetual preferred stock is not a permanent choice if you are concerned about the eternal nature of the offering. A “call” feature allows the startup to repurchase the perpetual stock shares, also known as a “buyback” provision. Changes in interest rates or tax legislation may motivate the founders to repurchase their stock. However, these attributes must be stated in the prospectus of the stock.

Cumulative preferred perpetual stock combines the advantages of missed dividend dividends with perpetual dividend dividends (as long as the startup remains in business).

How do you determine a cumulative preferred stock valuation?

Investors who invest in a startup wish to understand the investment’s pricing and valuation. In addition, the founder must understand these figures for the capitalization table or cap table, which details the exact ownership of the firm through ordinary or preferred shares and the amounts paid by each investor.

It is identical to pricing and evaluating the cumulative preferred stock.

Calculating the Price of Preferred Stock

Let’s first examine how to compute the price of preferred stock. Then, we will examine cumulative preferred stock in detail.

Corporate Finance Institute reports, “The cost of preferred stock to a firm is the amount it pays in exchange for the revenue it receives from selling the stock. In other words, the company’s annual payout is divided by the lump sum they received from issuing the stock.”

Founders should apply the following calculation for calculating the price of preferred stock.

Rp (preferred stock expense) = D (preferred stock dividend) / P (preferred stock price)

So, let’s see an example of this formula in action. Imagine that a business provides preferred stock with a $5 yearly dividend. The cost of preferred stock is computed as follows if the current stock price is $20:

Rp = 5 / 20 = 25% 

Let’s now examine how to calculate the preferred stock price with a growth rate. In this instance, the following formula will be utilized:

Rp = DY1 (preferred stock dividend in year 1) / P (preferred stock price) + Growth rate

The Corporate Finance Institute featured an example with a 2% growth rate and a $3 dividend payout. The cost of preferred stock is computed as follows if the current stock price is $21:

Rp = 3 / 21 + 2 percent = 16.57 percent

As these calculations become more complex, it would be advisable to use a preferred stock calculator.

Now, when calculating cumulative returns (in % form), use the following formula:

((Current Stock Share Price – Original Stock Share Price)) / (Original Price of Stock Share)


In conclusion, cumulative preference shares are solely concerned with dividends earned by shareholders. In the event of any other occurrence, such as liquidation, the holders rank equally with other preference shareholders. Cumulative Preferred stockholders get a predetermined dividend rate regardless of the company’s profit margin; hence, they do not share in the company’s earnings.

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