Dividend payments from the world’s largest listed companies are expected to rise by less than 1 per cent this year, according to the Henderson Global Dividend Index.
Currency movements, the collapse of the oil price and the prospect of slower growth are the main factors behind the revised estimate from Henderson Global Investors.
The asset manager forecasts that payments to investors will total $1.176tn in 2015, compared with the $1.167tn paid out last year. The 0.8 per cent increase would be the lowest annual rise since the financial crash and represents a 5 per cent cut on Henderson’s previous estimate for this year.
Ben Lofthouse, the company’s global equity income fund manager, said the fall in oil prices was already leading to cuts among oil services companies. “We have seen some very sharp falls on a year-on-year basis,” he said.
Mr Lofthouse said last week’s decision by Total to offer shareholders the choice of taking the quarterly dividend in stock at a discount showed the pressures to conserve cash even among oil majors.
It is the first time the French group has offered investors the option of a scrip dividend.
The corporate benefits of the fall in oil prices, such as a boost to consumption, take longer to come through, he said, though the prospect that these benefits would help profits in future might give companies the confidence to maintain their dividend payments in the meantime.
In terms of the geographic make-up of dividend payments this year, Henderson expects continued strong growth from US corporates and also a greater contribution from Japanese companies.
For example, Toyota’s full-year dividend payment rose from Y90 ($0.76) per share in 2013 to Y165 per share last year.
Mr Lofthouse said Japanese companies had begun “a catch-up”, as their payout ratios had been at historically low levels that did not reflect an earlier boost in profitability.
Corporate governance changes in Japan were also encouraging a greater focus on returning cash to shareholders, he said.
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