UK companies paid out £35.5 billion in dividends between July and September this year. With the total up by £2.3 billion versus 2018, it was a new record for third-quarter payouts. Even so, there are signs that after several fast-paced years, dividend growth is slowing down.

As ever when it comes to dividends, there are various moving parts that impact on what shareholders really feel in their wallets. At a headline level, dividend growth of 6.9 percent in the third quarter was still above the long-run average of 5 percent.

But what we’ve seen in recent months - according to stats from Link Asset Services - is a heavy skew caused by very large special dividends. When you strip all that away, payouts actually fell in those three months by 0.2 percent.

And even then, foreign exchange rates between the pound and the euro and the dollar flattered the numbers. The weak pound added around £850 million to the total. Strip that out and dividends fell by 3 percent in Q3.

Dividends in detail

Vodafone - once one of the UK’s most popular dividend stocks - has seen its business change a great deal in recent years. This year, a big cut to its dividend was a major drag on the overall FTSE 100 payout in the third quarter.

Vodafone slashed its dividend by nearly 40 percent to €0.09 for the year. Even then, the dividend cover was negative.



Source: Link Asset Services

In terms of sectors, banking dividends jumped by two-fifths between July and September, with Royal Bank of Scotland being a major contributor. RBS will have paid out a total of £3 billion in 2019.

Last year, the bank initiated dividends after a 10 year hiatus following the financial crisis. An interim and final payment totalling 5.5p was supplemented by a special of 7.5p, making 13p for the year. In this financial year, the bank has already committed to 14p, with an additional final payout due next spring.


Royal Bank of Scotland dividends since 2018

Elsewhere, mining dividends rose by almost a third, again thanks to special payouts from the two giants, Rio Tinto and BHP. Both companies have seen profits…

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