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What is Dividend Arbitrage?

Dividend arbitrage is a complex yet fascinating concept within the realm of options trading strategy. This sophisticated trading approach leverages the intricate dance of put options, underlying stocks, and their ex-dividend dates to carve out profitable opportunities for investors, often with a significantly low risk profile.

At its core, dividend arbitrage revolves around the strategic purchase of put options and an equivalent amount of the underlying stock before the ex-dividend date. Following the collection of dividends, the put is then exercised. This technique allows the investor to exploit the propensity for the share price to fall after dividends are distributed – a common occurrence in financial markets.

To fully grasp the mechanics of dividend arbitrage, it is essential to understand the fundamentals of both arbitrage and dividend payouts. Arbitrage, as a broad concept, leverages price disparities of identical or analogous financial instruments across various markets to generate profit. These disparities are often a result of market inefficiencies – in a world of perfect markets, arbitrage wouldn't exist. Arbitrage opportunities thus present themselves as profitable playgrounds where risk-free gains can be made.

When arbitrage is applied to dividends - enter dividend arbitrage - it entails buying a stock before the ex-dividend date, consequently qualifying for the upcoming dividend payout. When the stock price dips after dividend distribution, the previously purchased put is exercised, leading to a low-risk profit scenario. While this might seem an obvious tactic, its success hinges on how keen other investors are to the idea, which invariably influences put prices.

In the global financial arena, dividend arbitrage takes a rather interesting turn. Some investment banks have found innovative ways to exploit international tax differences to their advantage, creating a more enticing environment for dividend arbitrage. Oftentimes, the tax implications on gains serve as the main hindrance to the viability of the dividend arbitrage strategy domestically. This is where the cross-market differences come into play; put prices across diverse markets do not always incorporate the same expected tax costs.

London, as an international financial hub, has emerged as a pivotal center for this overseas dividend arbitrage, colloquially known as "div-arb". This approach allows the banks to transfer their investor’s shares to regions offering favorable tax treatments, thus maximizing the gains from the strategy.

In essence, dividend arbitrage presents a captivating blend of strategic thinking, timing, and an astute understanding of market dynamics. This low-risk, high-reward trading strategy capitalizes on the peculiarities of dividend payouts and market inefficiencies. However, it demands a careful consideration of various factors, including put prices and tax implications, particularly for overseas transactions.

The strategy’s potential profitability, coupled with its low-risk profile, makes it a viable alternative for investors seeking to diversify their portfolio and maximize gains. However, the complexities involved underscore the need for professional guidance or significant market expertise. As always, in the world of finance, a well-informed investor is a well-prepared investor.


Arbitrage opportunities can be found in a few different places in the market, when risk-free profit can be made.

If a stock is purchased before the ex-dividend date, and a put is exercised when the share price falls after the dividend is distributed, it is known as dividend arbitrage. Arbitrage is when an investor finds a situation where one thing can be exchanged for another, such as the same thing on two different exchanges or similar fixed instruments which can be swapped, when no risk is taken and a profit is gained.

In a dividend arbitrage, money is made by purchasing a stock before the ex-dividend date and then exercising a put when the stock price falls after the dividend is paid. Shares purchased prior to the ex-dividend date will still receive an upcoming dividend payout. Obviously other investors should be keen to this idea and the price of the puts would reflect that.

What some banks have done, however, is to take their investor’s shares overseas, where they can benefit from different tax treatments on their gains. Taxes are often the only reason that the dividend arbitrage strategy doesn’t work domestically. The put prices across markets won’t necessarily price-in the same expected tax costs.

London’s investment banks are a market center for this overseas arbitrage, sometimes called div-arb.