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UK dividends hit record high

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UK dividend payments hit another record high in Q3 2012, although the mood was soured somewhat as experts warned it will be "much harder” to make progress in 2013.

According to services firm Capita, UK dividends totalled £23.2bn for Q3, a record quarterly amount, with the figure prompting them to upgrade its full-year forecast from £78.3bn to £78.6bn.

The figure is a 15.6% rise on 2011’s figure, but Capita has warned dividends may suffer next year, adding it was paying close attention to the underlying slowdown seen in Q3.

The third quarter was the seventh consecutive three-month periods in which dividends rose, but the 10.4% increase was the slowest rate since Q4 2010.

The underlying rate of 8.7% (excluding special dividends) was also notably below the 11.5% figure recorded for the first half of 2012, Capita said.

Capita predicts UK dividends will total £81bn in 2013, a rise of just 3% on the forecast for 2012, suggesting special dividends cannot be maintained at the same level this year. Its underlying forecast is for growth of 8%.

“The big contribution of one-offs in 2012 means we continue to question how much progress can be made in 2013,” the report said.

Some £6.3bn of the £58.5bn paid out by FTSE 100 companies in 2012 thus far was in the form of special dividends, described by Capita as “finance directors’ favourite bauble to dangle in front of investors.”

“They allow companies to reduce their cash piles, without rebasing the growth rate attributed to the ‘regular’ dividends.”

“By this means they will, in future years, be able to point to continued ‘regular’ dividend growth, even when they are no longer making big special payments.”

FTSE 100 dividends rose by 11.1% in Q3, down from a 22.9% rise in the first half of the year, with the underlying rate “a respectable but slower” 9%.

FTSE 250 dividends rose 6.2% in Q3, compared with a 7.2% increase in the first half. But the lack of special dividends meant the underlying rate, at 8.8%, was in line with that seen for the FTSE 100.

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