The year 2021 saw a strong recovery in global dividends that more than offset cuts made during the worst of the pandemic, according to the latest Janus Henderson Global Dividend Index. Global dividends soared 14.7% on an underlying basis to a new record high of $1.47 trillion.
According to data from the Janus Henderson index, records were broken in a number of countries, including the United States, Brazil, China and Sweden, although the fastest growth was recorded in those parts of the world that had experienced the largest declines in 2020, notably Europe, the United Kingdom and Australia. Overall rate growth was 16.8%, driven by record extraordinary dividends. In addition, 90% of companies raised or held dividends steady, indicating widespread growth.
“Against the backdrop of the spectacular rally seen in the banking sector and the exceptional cyclical upside in mining companies, it would be easy to overlook the encouraging dividend growth seen in sectors that have made steady rises in recent years, such as technology. We expect many of these habitual patterns to consolidate in 2022 and beyond. The big unknown for 2022 is what will happen in the mining sector, but it is reasonable to assume that dividends in this area will be lower than the record levels of 2021, in light of recent trends in the iron ore, other metals and coal markets. For the full year, we forecast global dividends to reach a new record high of $1.52 trillion, up 3.1% on an overall basis or 5.7% on an underlying basis,” the company’s analysis notes.
Upward revision of the forecast
The exceptionally strong fourth-quarter distributions figures, coupled with the improved outlook for 2022, have led Janus Henderson to upgrade its full-year forecast. In 2022, Janus Henderson expects global dividends to reach a new record of $1.52 trillion, an increase of 3.1% on an overall rate or 5.7% on an underlying basis.
As the report accompanying the release of this index indicates, banks and mining companies were responsible for 60% of the $212 billion increase in payouts in 2021.
Another 25% of the increase responded to the resumption of distributions that companies had halted in 2020. Most of it was due to banks, whose dividends soared 40%, or $50.5 billion, and distributions returned to 90% of their pre-pandemic highs in 2021. In this regard, the manager explains that dividends were boosted by the restoration of payouts to more normal levels, given that regulators had curbed distributions in many parts of the world in 2020.
“More than 25% of the $212 billion annual increase came from mining companies, which benefited from the stellar rise in commodity prices. Record dividends from mining companies reflect the strength of their earnings. The mining sector distributed $96.6 billion over the year, nearly double the previous record of 2019, and ten times more than during the trough of 2015-16. In addition, BHP became the company that distributed the most dividends in the world. However, as a highly cyclical sector, its distributions will return to more normal levels when the commodity cycle turns around,” it notes in its findings.
The global economic recovery allowed distributions from consumer discretionary and industrial companies to grow by 12.8% and 10.0%, respectively, in underlying terms, while healthcare and pharmaceutical groups increased their dividends by 8.5%. Meanwhile, technology companies, whose profits continued to grow relatively immune to the pandemic, added $17 billion in payouts, an increase of 8%. Interestingly, 25% of the increase was attributable to just nine companies, eight of which were banks or mining companies.
Rebound in the United Kingdom and Australia
Geographically, the most accelerated growth in dividends was recorded in the regions where, in 2020, the largest cuts took place, such as Europe, the United Kingdom and Australia.
According to the firm, distributions reached new records in several countries such as the United States, Australia, China and Sweden, although 33% of the upturn came from just two countries, Australia and the United Kingdom, where the combination of increased distributions from mining companies and the restoration of distributions from banks made the biggest contribution to shareholder remuneration growth.
“Much of the dividend recovery in 2021 came from a small number of companies and sectors in a few areas of the world. However, behind these excellent figures, there was widespread growth in distributions both geographically and by sector,” says Jane Shoemake, client portfolio manager in Janus Henderson’s Global Equity Income team.
As Shoemake explains, against the backdrop of the spectacular rally seen in the banking sector and the exceptional cyclical upside in mining companies, it would be easy to overlook the encouraging dividend growth seen in sectors that have made steady gains in recent years, such as technology. “The same goes for geographic trends. The United States, for example, is often ahead of other countries, but in 2021 it recorded slower dividend growth than the rest of the world. This was due to the resilience shown in 2020, so the scope for recovery was now more limited,” he adds.
On its outlook, the manager indicates that many of the long-term dividend growth trends observed since the index’s launch in 2009 will be consolidated in 2022 and beyond. “The big unknown for 2022 is what will happen in the mining sector, but it is reasonable to assume that dividends in this area will be lower than the record levels of 2021, in view of the significant correction in the price of iron ore,” he says.
Commenting on the report’s findings, Juan Fierro, director at Janus Henderson for Iberia, says: “Following the strong recovery in global dividends that we saw over the past year, our 2022 forecasts put payouts for listed companies at a new record of $1.52 trillion – an increase of 3.1% overall or 5.7% underlying. While 90% of companies globally raised or held their dividends stable in 2021, in Spain we have seen this percentage drop to 36%. Despite this, dividends in our country registered an underlying growth of 14.6%, in line with global growth but higher in general terms (+22.5%) thanks to extraordinary payments.”
Fierro believes that, in the current context, “with a turbulent start to the year due to geopolitical tensions and potential changes in central banks’ monetary policy, it will be key to rely on active management and maintain a global and diversified approach in portfolios”.