Dividend payouts hit first quarter record, but outlook rocky

By Lucy Raitano

LONDON (Reuters) – Mining and oil firms led an 11% jump in dividend payouts to a first-quarter record of $302.5 billion, according to a closely-watched global report, though it warned companies face a growing number of challenges in the months ahead.

The war in Ukraine, geopolitical tensions, high energy and commodity prices, rapid inflation and rising interest rates are all likely to impact companies’ dividend prospects, according to British asset management group Janus Henderson.

“These challenges also mean greater uncertainty that is likely to affect corporate decision making. The impact on dividends is likely to show up beyond 2022, but it is important to remember that dividends are much less volatile than profits,” said Jane Shoemake, a client portfolio manager for global equity income at Janus Henderson.

Payouts to shareholders have rebounded after falling during the pandemic.

All business sectors in Janus Henderson’s index saw higher dividends year-on-year in the first quarter, with mining and oil companies recording the fastest growth, both up almost a third.

BHP topped the list of the world’s biggest dividend payers in the quarter, followed by Swiss pharmaceuticals group Novartis.

Danish shipping group Maersk was the third largest, having also recorded the biggest single dividend increase as the company benefitted from the disruption in global supply chains, according to the report.

Overall 94% of companies in the index increased or maintained dividend levels, and every region saw double-digit growth.

Janus Henderson expects global dividends for 2022 to reach $1.54 trillion, up 4.6% from the $1.47 trillion paid out in 2021, and over a fifth higher than in 2020. Payouts have more than doubled since 2009, when its global dividend index began.

(Reporting by Lucy Raitano; Editing by Saikat Chatterjee and Mark Potter)