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World's biggest companies pay out $1 trillion in dividends

Monday, 24 Feb 2014 | 6:26 AM ET

The world's largest listed companies paid out more than $1 trillion in dividends for the first time, a new report shows.

Investors were awarded $1.027 trillion of dividends last year, as pay-outs have increased by $310 billion since 2009, according to research from Henderson Global Investors.

(Read more: It's time to cash in on dividends)

Dividend pay-outs from companies in emerging markets have doubled between 2009 and 2011, but growth in the region has since "slowed to a crawl" as the commodity cycle ended and currencies fell.

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Dividends from Europe, excluding the UK, rose by 8 percent since 2009, reaching $199.8 billion in 2013. This increase made the region "comfortably the second most important region in the world for income, after North America," the report found. The UK's 11 percent share is disproportionately large compared to the size of its economy, said Henderson.

The U.S. has increased its pay-outs by 49 percent over five years, and is by far the largest source of dividend income, accounting for one third of the global pie and $301.9 billion.

(Read more: Dividend party just getting started on Wall Street)

"Over the five-year period of our research, dividends provide a clear picture of the major global economic events and trends. The rise of emerging markets, and their cooling, the inflation of the commodity bubble and its subsequent deflation, the euro zone crisis, and the US resurgence from the recession are all there to be seen," said head of global equity income at Henderson Global Investors, Alex Crooke.

Dividend rise shows health of corporates: Pro
Alex Crooke, head of global equity income at Henderson Global Investors, and Peter Toogood, investment director at City Financial Investment Company, discuss whether dividend increases are a sign of improving corporate health.

Banks and technology were heavyweight contributors to the global dividend pot, with financials paying out more than any other sector as they have recovered from the financial crisis.

Tech giants led by Apple posted the fastest growth in pay-out terms, with dividend growth in the sector growing by 109 percent. Apple alone paid almost one sixth of global tech dividends last year from a standing start in 2012.

(Read more: High-dividend ETFs: One way to play panicky markets)

The top 10 largest payers accounted for almost $1 in every $10 of global income pay outs last year according to the report.

Oil companies and banks dominate the top 10 rankings with Shell followed by Exxon Mobil topping the list. Apple , Time Warner Cable, HSBC and Banco Santander also featured.

By CNBC's Jenny Cosgrave: Follow her on Twitter @jenny_cosgrave