Dividends hit £1.1 trillion – setting a new record for fifth consecutive year

Payouts to investors hit a new record for a fifth consecutive year in 2019 as the amount of cash paid out by listed companies to shareholders reached more than £1 trillion, according to new research.

Global dividends reached 1.43 trillion dollars (£1.1 trillion) in 2019, up 3.5% on the amount handed out last year, according to the latest Janus Henderson Global Dividend Index.

The growth came primarily from North America, emerging markets and Japan, researchers found.

But despite hitting record levels, the economic uncertainty meant the speed of growth was the slowest since 2016.

The UK fell behind the global average, but it was helped by a series of one-off special dividends and London-listed Shell remaining the world’s largest dividend payer.

Europe also fell behind the rest of the world’s global average, particularly in Germany, which has seen a weakened economy in the past year, although France held up well.

The oil sector continues to dominate the highest-paying companies, with dividends up by a 10th.

However, the global political uncertainty in the telecoms sector saw its dividend payouts fall.

Looking at the overall picture, Ben Lofthouse, co-manager of Global Equity Income at Janus Henderson, said: “With the exception of a few specific sectors, the pace of earnings growth slowed across the world in 2019 as the global economy lost some momentum.

“This has inevitably driven a reduction in the pace of dividend growth, after a particularly strong two years.

“But there is still growth. The underlying 5.4% increase witnessed in 2019 was in line with the longer-term trends.”

He added: “For the year ahead, the market expects the global economy and company profits to continue to expand, meaning dividends can grow further.

“2020 is on track to deliver the fifth consecutive year of record dividends.”

With the decade also coming to a close, researchers revealed that dividends doubled compared with the previous decade – although this was flattered by the financial crisis severely hitting payouts in 2008 and 2009.