Preference Shares: What They Are and How They Work | TIOmarkets

BY TIO Staff

|June 7, 2024

Understanding the intricacies of preference shares is crucial for investors seeking diversified investment portfolios. This article delves into the nature of preference shares, their unique characteristics, and how they operate within the broader financial landscape.

Introduction to Preference Shares

Preference shares represent a class of ownership in a company with features differing from those of ordinary shares. They blend elements of both equity and debt, offering a hybrid investment option.

Investors in preference shares are entitled to a fixed dividend before any dividend is paid to ordinary shareholders. This article aims to unpack the layers of preference shares, offering insights into their benefits and considerations.

Definition and Key Features

Preference shares, also known as preferred stocks, carry preferential rights over ordinary shares, particularly regarding dividend payments and asset distribution upon liquidation. Unlike ordinary shareholders, preference shareholders typically do not have voting rights in company meetings.

The key features of preference shares include fixed dividends, priority over common stock in asset distribution, and potential convertibility into common stock. These characteristics make preference shares an appealing option for conservative investors seeking steady income with lower risk.

Types of Preference Shares

There are several types of preference shares, each tailored to meet specific investor needs and corporate financing strategies. Cumulative preference shares guarantee dividends accumulation if not paid in one year, ensuring investors do not miss out on dividends. Non-cumulative preference shares, on the other hand, do not offer this guarantee.

Convertible preference shares can be converted into a predetermined number of common shares, usually at the discretion of the shareholder. Redeemable preference shares are issued with an agreement that the company can buy them back at a future date.

Benefits of Investing in Preference Shares

Preference shares offer a blend of benefits, combining aspects of both debt and equity investments. They provide a fixed income through dividends and potential for capital appreciation.

Fixed Income through Dividends

One of the primary attractions of preference shares is the fixed dividend yield. Investors receive dividends at a set rate, offering a predictable income stream. This feature is particularly appealing during volatile market conditions, providing a semblance of stability to investors.

Priority in Dividend Payments

Preference shareholders are higher up the ladder than ordinary shareholders when it comes to dividend distribution. This priority ensures that preference shareholders receive dividends before ordinary shareholders, adding an extra layer of security to the investment.

Potential for Capital Appreciation

While preference shares are primarily sought after for their fixed dividends, they also hold the potential for capital appreciation. Convertible preference shares, for instance, allow investors to convert their holdings into common shares, potentially benefiting from an increase in the company's stock price.

Risks and Considerations

Despite their attractive features, preference shares are not without risks. Investors should weigh these considerations carefully before incorporating preference shares into their portfolios.

Limited Voting Rights

One of the primary drawbacks of preference shares is the lack of voting rights. This limitation means preference shareholders have minimal influence over company decisions, including those that could affect the value of their investment.

Interest Rate Sensitivity

Preference shares are sensitive to interest rate fluctuations. Rising interest rates can lead to a decrease in the market value of preference shares, as newer issues may offer higher yields, making existing preference shares less attractive.

Call Risk

Redeemable preference shares carry a call risk. Companies can redeem these shares at their discretion, often when it is most advantageous to the company but not necessarily for the shareholder. This risk requires investors to be vigilant and consider the terms of redeemable preference shares carefully.

Preference Shares in Comparison to Common Shares

It's essential to understand how preference shares differ from common shares to make informed investment decisions. While both types of shares represent ownership in a company, they have distinct characteristics that cater to different investor preferences.

Common shares typically offer voting rights, allowing shareholders to participate in company decisions and elect the board of directors. In contrast, preference shares often lack voting rights, focusing more on fixed income and priority in dividend payments.

Another key difference lies in dividend payments. Common shareholders receive dividends based on the company's profitability and board decisions, whereas preference shareholders have fixed dividend rates, providing a stable income stream.

Key Differences

Preference shares usually have a fixed dividend rate, while common shares' dividends can vary. Additionally, preference shareholders have priority over common shareholders in receiving dividends and assets during liquidation.

Common shares offer voting rights, enabling shareholders to have a say in company matters, while preference shareholders typically do not participate in voting processes.

Preference shares often have a higher claim on company assets in case of bankruptcy compared to common shares, providing an added layer of security to preference shareholders.

Preference Shares vs. Bonds: A Comparative Analysis

Preference shares and bonds are both investment options that offer fixed income to investors, but they have distinct characteristics that differentiate them in terms of risk, return, and investor rights. Understanding these differences can help investors make informed decisions based on their financial goals and risk tolerance.

Bonds represent debt instruments issued by corporations or governments, where investors lend money to the issuer in exchange for periodic interest payments and the return of the principal amount at maturity. On the other hand, preference shares represent ownership in a company, entitling shareholders to fixed dividends and priority in asset distribution.

Risk and Return Profile

Bonds are generally considered less risky than preference shares, as bondholders have a higher claim on the issuer's assets in case of bankruptcy. Bondholders receive interest payments before shareholders, providing a more secure income stream.

Preference shares, while offering fixed dividends, are riskier than bonds as shareholders rank lower than bondholders in the event of liquidation. However, preference shares also have the potential for capital appreciation, unlike bonds, which offer a fixed return.

Investor Rights and Voting Power

Bondholders do not typically have voting rights in company decisions, as their relationship with the issuer is that of a lender. In contrast, preference shareholders may or may not have voting rights, depending on the terms of the shares issued by the company.

Preference shareholders often have priority over common shareholders in receiving dividends and assets, providing them with a higher claim on the company's resources. This priority can offer a level of security to preference shareholders compared to common shareholders.

Tax Implications

From a tax perspective, interest income from bonds is taxed at the investor's ordinary income tax rate, while dividends from preference shares may qualify for lower tax rates, depending on the jurisdiction and the shareholder's tax status. Investors should consider the tax implications of each investment option when making decisions.


Preference shares offer a unique investment opportunity, blending the benefits of fixed income with the potential for capital appreciation. While they present certain risks, such as limited voting rights and sensitivity to interest rate changes, their priority in dividend payments and fixed dividend rates make them an attractive option for investors seeking stability in their investment portfolios.

As with any investment, it's essential to conduct thorough research and consider how preference shares fit within your overall investment strategy. Understanding the nuances of preference shares can help investors make informed decisions, balancing risk and reward in pursuit of their financial goals.

By comparing preference shares to common shares and bonds, investors can tailor their investment portfolios to meet their specific objectives and risk tolerance levels. Each investment option offers unique features and benefits, and understanding these distinctions is key to building a diversified and resilient investment portfolio.

Whether you are a conservative investor seeking steady income or a growth-oriented investor looking for capital appreciation, preference shares can play a valuable role in achieving your financial goals. By weighing the benefits, risks, and considerations associated with preference shares, you can make informed investment decisions that align with your investment strategy and objectives.

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TIO Staff

Behind every blog post lies the combined experience of the people working at TIOmarkets. We are a team of dedicated industry professionals and financial markets enthusiasts committed to providing you with trading education and financial markets commentary. Our goal is to help empower you with the knowledge you need to trade in the markets effectively.

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