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Workers are seen on the assembly line making snowmobiles at BRP Inc., in Valcourt, Que., on Oct. 8, 2020.

Christinne Muschi/The Globe and Mail

Canadian companies have accelerated their payouts to shareholders, restoring dividends overall back to levels seen before the pandemic ushered in a wave of reductions and suspensions. Similar trends were seen in the United States.

According to an analysis of S&P Global Market Intelligence data, 62 companies with their primary listing on the TSX announced dividend increases in the just-completed first quarter ended March 31. That’s up from 51 in 2020′s fourth quarter, which itself was a period of renewed optimism: The fourth-quarter number of hikes was greater than in the pandemic-stricken second and third quarters combined.

Of the 62 companies announcing dividend increases in 2021′s first quarter, 40 are large enough to be on the S&P/TSX Composite Index. This includes auto parts maker Linamar Corp. and recreational vehicle maker BRP Inc. – both of which reduced payouts early on in the pandemic.

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It’s a welcome reversal from a trend of dividend cuts during the COVID-19-related market tumult of 2020. From April 1 to Sept. 30, 73 companies – 18 of them on the Composite – announced dividend cuts, suspensions or cancellations, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

A separate analysis performed in the S&P Global Market Intelligence database found primary-listed stocks currently in the S&P/TSX Composite have – in the aggregate – brought their dividends back to prepandemic levels. They paid about $60 a share in dividends, in aggregate, during 2020′s fourth quarter – the latest period for which that data are available – the same as 2019′s fourth quarter. That number fell to about $45 in the second and third quarters of 2020.

The U.S. equity market has also seen an acceleration in dividend payouts.

Among S&P 500 companies, 120 increased their dividends in the first quarter of 2021, a rise from 91 in the fourth quarter – but still below the 126 stocks that raised their dividends in the first quarter of 2020 before the pandemic fully took hold in North America, according to data from S&P Dow Jones Indices.

The U.S. hikes were also more aggressive in the first quarter of 2021, with payouts rising an average of 11.1 per cent. In the fourth quarter of last year, payouts among companies raising dividends rose 9.8 per cent.

There were only two dividend reductions announced in the first quarter among S&P 500 stocks. In the same quarter of last year, the U.S. benchmark index saw 13 reductions – 10 of which were suspensions. All told, there was a US$15.4-billion net increase in dividends among S&P 500 firms in the first quarter, the S&P data showed.

This trend of juicier payouts to shareholders is expected to continue throughout this year – assuming all goes well with COVID-19 vaccination efforts. S&P expects a 5-per-cent rise over all in S&P 500 dividend payouts in 2021 – enough to set a new annual record.

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“I would expect to see additional initiations from issues that previously suspended, and increases from some that reduced their rate, dependent on how the economy reacts to the vaccine progress, any new developments with respect to the virus spread and mutants, and any consumer spending reactions,” Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst with S&P Dow Jones Indices, said in a statement.

The following is a list of TSX companies that S&P Global Market Intelligence noted as making announcements of dividend increases in the first quarter. The list doesn’t include companies that have their primary stock listing on an exchange in the U.S. or elsewhere outside Canada.

Dividend hikes accelerate

CompanyTickerDividend Announcement
Urbana Corporation URB-TJan. 4
Algoma Central Corporation ALC-TJan. 14
ATCO Ltd. ACO.X-TJan. 14
Canadian Utilities Limited CU-TJan. 14
Cogeco Inc. CGO-TJan. 14
Melcor Real Estate Investment Trust MR.UN-TJan. 14
Mackenzie Master Limited Partnership MKZ.UN-TJan. 15
Income Financial Trust INC.UN-TJan. 20, Feb. 18 and Mar. 18
Richelieu Hardware Ltd. RCH-TJan. 21
Mullen Group Ltd. MTL-TJan. 22
Canadian National Railway Company CNR-TJan. 26
Metro Inc. MRU-TJan. 26
Exco Technologies Limited XTC-TFeb. 2
BCE Inc. BCE-TFeb. 4 and Mar. 11
PFB Corporation PFB-TFeb. 4
FirstService Corporation FSV-TFeb. 8
PrairieSky Royalty Ltd. PSK-TFeb. 8 and Mar. 9
TFI International Inc. TFII-TFeb. 8
Andrew Peller Limited ADW.A-TFeb. 10
Brookfield Asset Management Inc. BAM.A-TFeb. 11
A&W Revenue Royalties Income Fund AW.UN-TFeb. 17 and Mar. 3
goeasy Ltd. GSY-TFeb. 17
Nutrien Ltd. NTR-TFeb. 17
TC Energy Corporation TRP-TFeb. 18
Lundin Mining Corporation LUN-TFeb. 19
Magna International Inc. MG-TFeb. 19
Nexus Real Estate Investment Trust NXR.UN-TFeb. 19
Western Forest Products Inc. WEF-TFeb. 19
Gibson Energy Inc. GEI-TFeb. 22
Goodfellow Inc. GDL-TFeb. 22
Dream Unlimited Corp. DRM-TFeb. 23 and Feb. 26
Leon's Furniture Limited LNF-TFeb. 23
Thomson Reuters Corporation TRI-TFeb. 23
Alamos Gold Inc. AGI-TFeb. 24
Guardian Capital Group Limited GCG.A-TFeb. 24
Stantec Inc. STN-TFeb. 24
Aecon Group Inc. ARE-TFeb. 25
CCL Industries Inc. CCL.B-TFeb. 25
ECN Capital Corp. ECN-TFeb. 25
Maple Leaf Foods Inc. MFI-TFeb. 25
Quebecor Inc. QBR.A-TFeb. 25
Top 10 Canadian Financial Trust TCT.UN-TMar. 3
Canadian Natural Resources Limited CNQ-TMar. 4
Cargojet Inc. CJT-TMar. 4
Freehold Royalties Ltd. FRU-TMar. 4
Parkland Corporation PKI-TMar. 4 and Mar. 11
Tree Island Steel Ltd. TSL-TMar. 4
Franco-Nevada Corporation FNV-TMar. 10
Linamar Corporation LNR-TMar. 10
Stella-Jones Inc. SJ-TMar. 10
Tourmaline Oil Corp. TOU-TMar. 10
Cervus Equipment Corporation CERV-TMar. 11
Enghouse Systems Limited ENGH-TMar. 11
Premium Brands Holdings Corporation PBH-TMar. 11
Wheaton Precious Metals Corp. WPM-TMar. 11
Badger Daylighting Ltd. BAD-TMar. 12 and Mar. 15
European Residential Real Estate Investment Trust ERE.UN-TMar. 15
Whitecap Resources Inc. WCP-TMar. 15
Melcor Developments Ltd. MRD-TMar. 17
Westshore Terminals Investment Corporation WTE-TMar. 17
BRP Inc. DOO-TMar. 25
Dollarama Inc. DOL-TMar. 31

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence

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