Preference Shares vs. Debentures

Preference Shares vs. Debentures

3 Min.

Preference shares, also known as preferred shares, offer their owners the advantage of receiving preferential dividend payments and equity rights during liquidation. On the other hand, a debenture is a type of debt security that is issued by a corporation or government entity and is not backed by any asset. Although debentures have higher seniority for repayment during liquidation than preferred shares, they may offer lower yields. The primary distinguishing factor between preferred shares and debentures is the level of risk involved.


Equity instruments, such as preference or preferred shares, confer preferential rights to owners during dividend payments or liquidation. Conversely, debentures represent unsecured debt securities issued by corporations or government entities.

Equity Ownership: Preference Shares Overview

Preference shares, a form of company stock assigned to preferential stakeholders, signify ownership akin to common stock. While lacking voting power, these shares grant holders exclusive rights to a predetermined quarterly dividend and priority in case of liquidation, distinct from common stock.

Companies may issue four primary types of preference shares:

  1. Cumulative Preferred Stock
  2. Non-cumulative Preferred Stock
  3. Participating Preferred Stock
  4. Convertible Preferred Stock

Positioned between common equity and corporate bonds on the risk spectrum, preference shares offer risk-averse investors a balanced alternative. They ensure a consistent dividend flow resembling bond interest payments. Preferred shareholders enjoy higher liquidation rights than common stock but trail behind debentures.

Under agreements, companies prioritize dividend payouts to preference shareholders over common shareholders. Additional provisions may dictate dividend obligations during liquidation, along with special rights concerning share values in such scenarios.

Exploring Debentures 

Debentures, a form of unsecured corporate or government bond, distinguish themselves from secured bonds by lacking collateral. Despite both falling under the category of bonds, not all bonds qualify as debentures, as secured bonds possess specific collateral.

The absence of collateral makes debentures riskier than secured debt instruments. However, their risk level is lower than that of preferred shares due to senior liquidation rights. In scenarios like bankruptcy or liquidation, debentures take precedence over preferred shares.

Two primary debenture types exist:

  1. Convertible Debentures
  2. Non-Convertible Debentures

Debentures share a standardized structuring process with common features. Initially, a trust indenture establishes terms between the issuing entity and the managing trust. The subsequent determination of the coupon rate, representing the interest paid to debenture holders, hinges on credit ratings.

To compensate for collateral risks, debentures typically yield higher interest rates than secured debt. Each debenture agreement outlines seniority in repayment during liquidation. Debenture holders, prioritized over preferred shareholders, may, however, rank below other debts like senior loans. Investors often face a choice between a company's preferred shares or debentures, each with distinct advantages and considerations.

Risk Dynamics: Preferred Shares vs. Debentures

In deciding between preferred shares and debentures, risk is a crucial factor to consider. While preferred shareholders receive assured dividends and limited liquidation rights, their shares remain subject to market fluctuations on open exchanges.

Debentures, presenting a potentially lower risk profile than preferred shares, generally yield a lower expected return. Owners of debentures enjoy a commitment to full repayment of the principal investment along with accrued interest over a designated period. Furthermore, in the event of company liquidation, debentures hold a higher seniority ranking for reimbursement.


The choice between preference shares and debentures depends on risk. Preference shares offer preferential dividends and priority in liquidation, while debentures, though unsecured, hold higher seniority. Despite potential lower yields, debentures ensure full repayment commitment, making them a lower-risk option compared to market-sensitive preference shares. Investors must carefully consider these factors in their financial decisions.

Preference Share