A crisis like no other. The coronavirus pandemic has turned the practices on the financial markets upside down and shareholders have paid the price. Almost complete shutdown of the economy, political pressure, reputational risk… Companies whose priority until then had been to maintain their dividend no matter what, this time turned off the tap without qualms. In total, dividends paid by CAC 40 companies plunged 42% in 2020 to 28.6 billion euros.
Such a rapid and massive response to a crisis is highly unusual. By 2008, dividends had risen, before falling just 18% the following year. The payment of the dividend is often perceived as an essential factor of attractiveness, in particular for the most mature sectors, with limited growth prospects. Total, for example, has not reduced its dividend since 1981. The oil company remains the exception since even last year, despite massive losses of nearly 6 billion euros, it decided to maintain the payment of 5.8 billion to its shareholders.