Reducing the dividend by 48 cents with 8.67 billion shares outstanding means shareholders are getting $4.1 billion less in dividends each year.
On an historic basis, that’s a lot.
It’s the eighth-largest dividend cut in the history of the S&P 500 by dollar value:
Two points to make:
- GE had the largest dividend cut of all time, in 2009.
- All the largest dividend cuts made prior to Monday were made during the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
That means GE’s most recent cut would be the biggest cut of all time on a dollar basis outside the financial crisis, according to S&P Global data.
You have to go to Kinder Morgan, which cut its dividend by $3.4 billion in December 2015, and ConocoPhillips, which cut the dividend $2.5 billion in February 2016, to find dividend cuts around this size outside the financial crisis. Both, of course, are energy stocks.
Dividend cuts are fairly rare, and with good reason: Investors have been willing to pay a lot for higher yields.
Through Friday, 310 companies in the S&P 500 have increased their dividend this year, only nine have decreased them. GE makes it 10.
What’s all this mean? For the moment, it appears that GE is a bit of a one-off.
Howard Silverblatt, who watches dividends for S&P, noted that the “overall dividend picture is very positive, as companies have record earnings, with cash also at a record, and cash-flow good; additionally the bleeding in energy related issues appears to have stopped.”
Indeed, Silverblatt notes that dividend payments for the S&P 500 are at a record in Q3,’17: $105.4 billion, same for Q4. This would be a sixth-consecutive annual record.