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2011ACCA公司法与商法F4(双语)讲义:第二十五章

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  25 Capital maintenance and dividends

  1 Introduction

  General principle

  1.1 When members contribute capital to the company it forms what is known as the creditors’ buffer.

  1.2 A company’s capital (creditors’ buffer) consists of its share capital and undistributable reserves.

  1.3 These funds cannot be ‘distributed’ i.e. given back to the members.

  Development of the principle

  1.4 Three main areas are covered:

  (a) Payment of dividends.

  (b) Reduction of capital.

  (c) Assisting others to acquire its own shares.

  2 Distributable profits

  Payment of dividends

  2.1 (a) The power to declare a dividend is given to the directors by the articles.

  (b) Members do not have a right to be paid a dividend. They must approve the dividend at a G.M. (they cannot increase it).

  (c) Dividends are normally declared payable on the paid up amount of share capital and may be in cash or otherwise.

  (d) (i) A dividend is a debt only when it is declared and due for payment.

  (ii) If declared and unpaid it is a deferred debt.

  (iii) An unclaimed dividend becomes statute barred after six years.

  Basic rules

  2.2 The basic rules contained are set out in ss.263 and 264.

  s.263 – Basic restrictions which apply to public and private companies.

  s.264 – Further restrictions applying to public companies only.

  Basic restriction applicable to all non‑investment companies s.263

  2.3 (a) Distributable profits are defined as:

  Accumulated realised profits – accumulated realised losses.

  (b) Accumulated: this means the company cannot take one year in isolation. It must take all profits/losses since commencement.

  (c) Realised profits and losses:

  (i) There is no distinction between capital and revenue profits.

  (ii) The Act does not define realised profits precisely but implies that they are what a prudent accountant would apply (ultimately the court will decide). Any profit is of course realised at the point of sale.

  (iii) Any provision, whether for doubtful debts or depreciation, must be treated as a realised loss.

  Further restriction applicable to public companies only s.264

  2.4 (a) Net assets must always be at least equal to called up share capital plus undistributable reserves.

  (b) Undistributable reserves are:

  (i) share premium account;

  (ii) capital redemption reserve;

  (iii) the surplus of unrealised profits – unrealised losses (revaluation reserve);

  (iv) any other controlled reserve (this could be defined in the memorandum or articles or come from statute).

  (c) The practical effect of this is to make plcs take unrealised losses into account when calculating the amount to distribute.

  (d) NB. Financial accounting practice treats private companies in the same way on grounds of prudence.

  Example

  The table below has information about the financial status of two companies, Black and White, as at the year ending 31.12.200X.

  BlackWhite

  £m£m

  Unrealised

  Revaluation reserve350(300)

  Realised capital

  Profits250150

  Realised revenue

  Profits b/fwd150150

  Profit/loss for year50(50)

  Assuming Black is a private company, what profits are available for distribution? Would your answer be the same if Black was a plc?

  Now do the same exercise for White.

  Answer

  Black Ltd

  250 + 150 + 50 = 450m

  Black plc = 450m

  White Ltd

  150 + 150 – (50) = 250m

  White plc

  150 + 150 – (50) – (300) = 0m

  Consequences of making an unlawful distribution (s.277)

  2.5 (a) If a company makes an unlawful payment then any shareholder knowing it is unlawful must pay it back.

  (b) Strangely, no specific liability attaches to directors by statute.

  However, directors could be regarded as failing in their duty and would then be liable to indemnify the company.  

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