A survey of 41 of the biggest Amsterdam listed companies reveals they increased their dividend payouts by an average 38% in 2017.
The companies surveyed spent a total of €22.9bn on dividends and share buybacks last year, up from €16.6bn in 2016, the Financieele Dagblad reported on Monday.
The higher spending led the companies to borrow €7.8bn to finance the moves, the FD said.
AkzoNobel and Unilever stood out for their higher payouts and both companies were the targets of failed takeover attempts last year. AkzoNobel paid shareholders a special dividend of about €1bn at the end of the year and bought back shares for €160m. Unilever spent €5bn buying back shares.
Because of its sheer size, Shell was kept out of consideration as were financial stocks. Shell spent €9.6bn on dividends (excluding stock dividends) up from €8.7bn in 2016.
Unlike in previous years, increased turnover rather than cost-cutting was the major factor in boosting earnings. More than two-thirds of companies in the survey booked higher sales with turnover an average 8.2% higher.
The companies reported profit margins of 9.5% compared to 7.8% in 2016. In other words, the FD says, companies kept the increase in costs lower than the growth of income.
The FD companies spent €10bn on takeovers last year. Chief among these was Heineken’s acquisition of the Brazilian arm of Japanese brewer Kirin, Philips’ purchase of Spectranetics and Unilever’s takeover of Carver, a South Korean skin care producer.