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Global dividends continued to rise in Q1 despite Ukraine war, Covid-19 restrictions

PARIS (AFP) - Dividends paid by companies across the world to shareholders hit a new record in the first quarter, driven by the oil and mining sectors as well as the post-Covid-19 upturn, according to a study released on Tuesday (May 24).

The amount that shareholders received jumped by 11 per cent to US$302.5 billion (S$425.8 billion) in the first three months of the year, the report by Janus Henderson Investors said.

That was a record for the period, which is traditionally "quieter", it said.

"Every region enjoyed double-digit growth, with the US, Canada and Denmark setting all-time quarterly records," the study said.

"Every sector, meanwhile, posted year-on-year increases," it added.

Despite global concerns about soaring inflation and the war in Ukraine, 94 per cent of multinationals increased or maintained their dividends, the study said.

It showed that global payouts have more than doubled since 2009, when the study began gauging dividends paid by the 1,200 companies with the largest market capitalisations.

Payouts from the largest companies in Asia-Pacific rose 8.1 per cent year-on-year to US$33.9 billion for the first quarter of 2022.

Australia and India were the strongest contributors to growth in the first quarter. Australian companies paid some US$18.9 billion, up from US$16.7 billion in the same period a year ago. Nearly 60 per cent of Australia's dividends in the first quarter came from mining giant BHP alone, with some US$10.8 billion distributed to shareholders, the report noted.

"With another distribution planned for later in the year, BHP is likely to be the world's largest payer in 2022 for the second year running."

However, there was notable weakness in parts of Asia, where lockdowns continue to plague the economy.

Singapore and Hong Kong had lower payouts for the period compared to a year earlier.

Singtel - which was the only Singapore company on the dividend index that paid a dividend in the first quarter - saw a cut in payouts.

Dividend payouts in Hong Kong fell 11.4 per cent year on year to US$2.5 billion as a result of strict Covid-19 lockdowns, the report said.

Europe's figures included a near eightfold increase in the annual dividend paid by Danish shipping giant Moller-Maersk, "which is benefittng from the disruption in global supply chains", the study said.

While all sectors saw increases, oil companies - whose dividends jumped by a third in the first quarter - and mining firms led the way.