Investors scoop up a divi record of £22.6bn

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The Independent Online

Payouts to shareholders by UK companies have soared 18 per cent in the last three months to a record quarterly high of £22.6bn.

The boom has encouraged Capita Registrars, which monitors UK dividends, to raise its forecast for the year by £2bn to an annual cash record of £78.3bn.

That would top by 15.1 per cent 2011's record year when payouts from UK companies climbed to £67.8bn. It would also be higher than the pre-crisis peak of 2008 when the equivalent of £77bn was paid out.

The most recent figures have been boosted by a number of one-off special payouts, but there has been marked underlying growth too, according to Charles Cryer, chief executive of Capita.

"Even without the record special payments, underlying dividend growth has surpassed our expectations with its strength. The worsening global and domestic economic picture has clearly not dented the enthusiasm among British firms to pay dividends." Cryer added that the second quarter is the most important dividend period in the year.In 2012, it beat the previous £22bn high point recorded in April to June 2007.

Some 250 companies paid a dividend in the period, up from 247 in the same quarter last year. Of these, 212 increased, started or reinstated their payments, 34 cut or cancelled them and 12 kept them the same.

Mr Cryer said part of the reason was that companies have been scared to embark on spending programmes while uncertainty remains in the market. Instead many have accumulated large cash surpluses.

But the upward trend is unlikely to continue next year he warned: "We are more cautious about 2013 mainly because it is hard to see the magnitude of special payments being repeated, leaving regular dividends to do the heavy lifting."

With the huge additional specials in 2012, it will be hard for dividends to grow rapidly in 2013, Capita said. It is forecasting between £79bn and £81bn next year.