Equity securities, generally referred to as shares, comprise ordinary shares and preference shares. Most of the equity securities listed on the Stock Exchange (the Exchange) are ordinary shares, which account for most of the turnover of the Exchange.
Ordinary shares and preferred shares are equity shares issued by a company to shareholders. Ordinary, or common, shareholders (ie holders of ordinary shares), being owners of the company, have voting rights and receive dividends at the discretion of the company. However, the payment of dividends is not mandatory, even if a company records a profit in the year.
Preferred shareholders are entitled to a preferential distribution out of profits prior to any distribution to the ordinary shareholders. Preferred shareholders have no voting rights and receive fixed dividends (ie the dividend does not increase, even if the company's profit increases). Preferred shareholders also have a claim on corporate assets in the event of liquidation which ranks ahead of ordinary shareholders but behind that of the company's creditors. Preference shareholders may receive additional dividends if the profits are sufficient. Cumulative preference shares carry forward the right to profits to following years if there are insufficient profits to pay the holders in any one year.