Big companies are doing well, and their shareholders are benefiting. Dividends paid by large French companies rose to a record level in 2023, following the global trend, according to the annual study by asset manager Janus Henderson published this Wednesday. Expressed in dollars, to facilitate global comparisons, the sums paid to their shareholders by the 40 French companies listed reached 68.7 billion in 2023. This is the equivalent of 63.2 billion euros.

France, like 21 other countries such as the United States, Germany, Italy and Denmark, is at a record in terms of dividends paid. This is an increase of 8.70% over one year, and 31% compared to 2017, where 47 French companies were included. France remains largely the leading country in the European Union, but remains behind the United Kingdom.

CAC 40 companies, some of which like ArcelorMittal or Stellantis are not counted as French for Janus Henderson, generated around 145 billion euros in net profit in 2023, a figure slightly higher than 2022, but significantly more than the 95 billion euros in 2017. In 2023, “97% of them have increased or maintained their dividends, which is significantly higher than the European and global average,” underlines Charles-Henri Herrmann, director of development France at Janus Henderson.

In detail, the most important contribution to dividend growth is for Engie “which pays its largest dividend in ten years and represents a quarter of the increase in France”. L’Oréal, Hermès, Safran and Vinci are other companies that have significantly increased their dividends. No French company appears in the top 20 companies paying the most dividends in the world, with TotalÉnergies having been demoted from its 14th place in 2022.

At the global level, the 1,200 companies listed in the study – representing 85% of dividends paid worldwide – distributed more than $1,655 billion in dividends in 2023, again a record, up 5.6% over a year, and 15% compared to 2019. For 2024, asset manager Janus Henderson forecasts that growth will continue, with payouts increasing by 3.9%.

For the first time since the study began, two technology companies occupy the top of the world ranking, in terms of profits redistributed to shareholders: Microsoft, whose dividends jumped by more than 10%, and Apple. Until 2014, no technology company had entered the top ten places. The raw materials sector remains very present, but several companies have made “significant reductions”, reflecting their profits, such as the Brazilian company Petrobras, second largest contributor in 2022, but absent from the top 20 in 2023. The mining company BHP, first in 2021 and 2022, falls to 6th place. ExxonMobil and PetroChina are in the top 5, Chevron is 11th.

However, “nearly half of the increase in dividends worldwide in 2023 comes from banks,” notes the report, which links this trend to the jump in profits in the sector enabled by the increase in interest rates. “Pessimism about the global economy proved unfounded in 2023 (…) Corporate cash flows in most sectors remained strong,” helping to fuel dividends, explains Ben Lofthouse, who oversaw writing the report.

Dividends aren’t the only way companies pamper their shareholders. There are also share buybacks, which continue to gain popularity in Europe. In France, CAC 40 companies in 2022 returned 30.1 billion euros to their shareholders in the form of share buybacks and 67.1 billion euros in the form of cash dividends, according to the Vernimmen financial letter. net.