total of $1.5 trillion, or $1,560,000,000,000 if you prefer, was distributed in dividends on a global scale. This is the figure compiled by the international asset management company Janus Henderson, which indicates a level never before reached in the remuneration of shareholders of all listed companies, after paying the corresponding taxes and discounting the much increased chapter of new investments. It is an index that indicates which are the most prosperous sectors in the world economy and who are the big players dominating a globalised world in which it is now practically impossible to operate in national spaces bounded by purely local regulations.
Confinements and restrictions during the pandemic led to substantial increases in savings, which have subsequently been channelled into investments and the profitability of companies that had to cope with the subsequent explosion in consumption.
The energy crisis has once again put the hydrocarbon sector at the forefront of shareholder returns, and thus of shareholder remuneration for the major oil and gas companies. Together with the financial sector, they are the drivers of the largest market capitalisations. Janus Henderson puts the increase in dividend payouts in 2022 compared to 2021 at 66%, including ordinary and extraordinary profits.
For banks, the overall increase in shareholder remuneration makes up 25% of the total. It should be recalled that, after the European Central Bank (ECB) froze dividends during the pandemic, the ECB lifted the restriction, allowing the sector to recover, which has consequently strengthened its lending capacity.
Generosity in return on capital is also a considerable parameter in terms of the strength of sectors and companies, which increase or decrease their reputation precisely on the basis of this index. In this respect, no EU multinational appears among the top giants, whose places are shared between the United States and China, although the first place is occupied by the Anglo-Australian mining company BHP, which overtakes the other mining giant, Rio Tinto. The rest of the honour roll is occupied by the Brazilian oil company Petrobras, the US companies Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, Johnson & Johnson and Apple, and the real estate finance company China Construction, seconded by the telecommunications giant China Mobile. Among the most generous European shareholders are two energy companies: France’s TotalEnergies and Norway’s Equinor.
Another aspect highlighted by the Henderson report, published by AFP, is that record dollar distributions were made in the United States, Canada, Brazil, China, India and Taiwan, followed by euro distributions in France and Germany, yen distributions in Japan, and Australian dollar distributions in Australia.
US oil giants Chevron and Exxon have taken advantage of their large dividend payouts to engage in massive share buybacks, while financials Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley and Blackstone, in particular, have seen sharp increases in their capitalisation.
The authors of the report foresee a slowdown in the global distribution of profits by 2023, which is not incompatible with the fact that they also predict that they will once again break records. They blame this slowdown on inflation, the continuing rise in interest rates and the geopolitical risks arising from the war in Ukraine, the growing tension in the Arabian and Persian Gulf, as well as the rising political temperature throughout the western Pacific arc.
Obviously, in the light of this report, the old controversy over the relationship between capital and labour has resurfaced, a debate that is prone to caricature and oversimplification, but one that global leaders will not be able to avoid. In any case, it will be part of the new society that is already emerging, in which Artificial Intelligence will be decisive in the destiny that awaits humanity.
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