FRANKFURT (dpa-AFX) - Despite declining profits, the companies in Germany's top league are paying out a record amount to shareholders this year, according to a study. At a total of 53.8 billion euros, the windfall is higher than ever since the first analysis in 2012, according to calculations by consulting firm EY. This is 2.4 percent more than last year. 23 of the 40 DAX companies are increasing their payouts this year.

According to EY, the largest payer this year is the car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz (5.5 billion euros) - despite a slight decrease of 0.7 percent in the amount distributed. It is closely followed by the Munich-based insurance group Allianz with an increase of 18 percent to 5.4 billion euros. Volkswagen took third place with 4.5 billion euros. The car manufacturer increased the total dividend payout to its shareholders by three percent. The dividends for the past financial year are paid after the Annual General Meeting.

The shareholders of Porsche AG can look forward to a particularly significant increase: according to the study, the car manufacturer is increasing its dividend payout by 129 percent to 2.1 billion euros. The shareholders of a total of nine companies will receive less than in the previous year, while the shareholders of five companies will be left empty-handed. The other DAX companies have not changed their dividend policy.

Dax companies announce savings programs

The dividend total rose, although the Dax companies earned less overall last year. According to the figures, consolidated earnings fell by a total of six percent to 120.9 billion euros. However, the payout ratio - i.e. the share of dividend payments in total profits - "at 44.5 percent is still below the five-year average of 47.6 percent and therefore at a solid and reasonable level," explained EY partner Mathieu Meyer.

Deteriorating economic prospects leave open how long the dividend boom will continue, said Meyer. "The economic situation is gloomy, and both the economic and political risks are becoming greater rather than smaller." More and more DAX companies are announcing tough cost-cutting programs in the face of falling quarterly profits. "If the pressure on profits continues this year, dividend payouts will probably also be put to the test," predicted Meyer.

According to EY, the analysis from the beginning of April includes all invitations to the annual general meetings with the dividend announcements of the Dax companies./evy/DP/ngu