dividends paid by companies to their shareholders in the crosshairs of unions and government

The French government was to announce a bill Friday to frame the payment of dividends by companies that it helps to overcome the coronavirus crisis.

Aid yes, dividends no. The French government was to announce, Friday, March 27, a bill to regulate the payment of dividends by companies it helps to overcome the coronavirus crisis. The Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, “announced to the social partners that he would submit a proposal to the Prime Minister this afternoon on the impossibility of combining requests for the extension of fiscal and social deadlines and the payment of dividends”, said the Elysee on Friday.

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Asked about a possible dividend ban, government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye said companies must do “proof of good citizenship”.“In companies where the State is a shareholder, we will ask not to pay dividends (…), it is solidarity”, previously stated the Minister of Labor, Muriel Pénicaud. She added during an interview with CNews “understand the CFDT approach”, which on Wednesday called on the major French groups not to pay dividends this year.

In a column published on Thursday, 18 heads of trade union, association and environmental organizations, including Philippe Martinez (CGT), Aurélie Found (Attac), Jean-François Julliard (Greenpeace) and Cécile Duflot (Oxfam), had demanded, “to avoid employees being the adjustment variable”, than “the payment of dividends and the repurchase of shares in the companies, which reached record levels recently, [soient] immediately suspended and supervised in the medium term “.

Several large French companies have already given up paying dividends or, at least, reduced the amount originally planned. On Wednesday, the specialist in advertising displays JCDecaux announced that it would give up its dividend and the media giant Lagardère reduce its own.

Conversely, the transport operator Transdev, publicly controlled via the Caisse des Dépôts, said Tuesday that it would pay a dividend of 23 million euros, half of its 2019 profit, but said it would not would do after the coronavirus crisis is over.

At the beginning of the week, the five trade unions of the energy giant Engie, of which the State is a shareholder, had asked, in a letter to Bruno Le Maire, that the dividend for the year 2019 be entirely allocated to investment , “in order to face the health crisis”.

This movement is not limited to France. The European Central Bank on Friday asked banks in the eurozone not to pay dividends or buy back treasury shares while the Covid-19 pandemic lasts, said a statement.

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