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Potential dividends and actual cash flows. Theoretical and empirical reasons for using ‘actual’ and dismissing ‘potential’, Or: How not to pull potential rabbits out of actual hats

Vélez-Pareja, Ignacio and Magni, Carlo Alberto (2008): Potential dividends and actual cash flows. Theoretical and empirical reasons for using ‘actual’ and dismissing ‘potential’, Or: How not to pull potential rabbits out of actual hats.

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Abstract

Practitioners and academics in valuation include changes in liquid assets (potential dividends) in the cash flows. This widespread and wrong practice is inconsistent with basic finance theory. We present economic, theoretical, and empirical arguments to support the thesis. Economic arguments underline that only flows of cash should be considered for valuation; theoretical arguments show how potential dividends lead to contradiction and to arbitrage losses. Empirical arguments, from recent studies, suggest that investors discount potential dividends with high discount rates, which means that changes in liquid assets are not value drivers. Hence, when valuing cash flows, we should consider only actual payments.

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