Dividends are payments made by a company to its shareholders.
When a company earns a profit, some of it is reinvested in the business and called retained earnings, and some of it can be paid to its shareholders as a dividend. The frequency of these varies by country. In the United States dividends are usually declared quarterly by the board of directors. In some other countries dividends are paid biannually, as an interim dividend shortly after the company announces its interim results and a final dividend typically following its annual general meeting. In other countries, the board of directors will propose the payment of a dividend to shareholders at the annual meeting who will then vote on the proposal.
Where a company makes a loss during a year, it may opt to continue paying dividends from the retained earnings from previous years or to suspend the dividend. Where a company receives a one-off gain, e.g. from the sale of some assets, and has no plans to reinvest the proceeds, the money is often returned to shareholders in the form of a special dividend.
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