Foreign firms claim Dutch wage support, but pay shareholders dividends
At least three large foreign companies which have claimed Dutch government support to meet wage bills during the coronavirus crisis are paying millions of euros in dividends to shareholders, broadcaster NOS said on Friday.
Of the 25 biggest beneficiaries of the NOW salary support scheme, Swiss staffing agency Adecco, the French parent of Daf Trucks and the French parent of IT company Atos have all paid out or plan to pay out dividends, the broadcaster said.
Ministers had wanted to impose a ban on dividend payments abroad as a condition of receiving the support but ditched the plan following pressure from employer organisations.
Daf Trucks, for example, has had €49m in state support but its parent Paccar Inc has paid €576m to shareholders, NOS said. Adecco has been given €55m while parent Adecco Invest has paid €365 to shareholders as well as bonuses to executives. Atos has had €22m in income support at a time when Atos SE in France is handing out €97m in dividends, NOS said. The figures come from the companies’ annual reports.
Neither Paccor or Atos responded to NOS’ requests for comment. However, Daf said that the wage support in the Netherlands was used to shore up employment levels. The decision to pay dividends abroad makes sense because ‘the trust of shareholders in a company is important, and that includes a stable dividend,’ a spokesman said.
Atos told NOS that it did not pay any dividends last year and that the salaries of senior staff had been reduced by 30% for three months. In addition, the NOW ruling ensured that no-one had to be sacked in the Netherlands, a spokesman said.
As yet it is unclear if other major claimants, including Air France-KLM, Tata Steel and security company I-Sec Nederland would be paying dividends over 2020, the broadcaster said. Their annual reports, which include dividend payments, have not yet been published.
Dutch firms are not allowed to pay dividends, buy back shares or pay bonuses if they have had government financial support since last June. The measure was introduced following pressure from parliament.
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