April 1: Britain’s top banks said on Tuesday they would suspend dividend payments after pressure from the regulator, saving their capital as a buffer against expected losses from the economic fallout from the coronavirus, Reuters reported.
According to the news agency, Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland, Standard Chartered and the British arm of Spain’s Santander all halted payouts.
“The lenders had been due to pay out over 8 billion pounds between them in 2019 dividends, with HSBC the biggest payer at $4.2 billion. The move came in response to a request from the Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA), which also asked banks and insurers not to pay senior staff bonuses this year.,” Reuters said in a news report published on April 1.
The PRA said banks entered the epidemic, which has put Britain into lockdown, with strong capital positions, enough to withstand a severe UK and global recession, according to Reuters.
“Banks pay out dividends as a means of rewarding shareholders and disposing of excess profits, but they have the option to retain the earnings instead to preserve their capital levels.”
The statements from British lenders reportedly come after the European Central Bank (ECB) last week asked euro zone lenders to skip dividend payments and share buybacks until October at the earliest, and use their profits to support the economy.
Reuters further reported that several of Europe’s largest lenders, including UniCredit, and Societe Generale have already announced they will hold off paying 2019 dividends for now.
The move to scrap 2019 shareholder distributions is expected to free up capital that banks can instead lend to businesses and consumers rocked by the Covid-19 pandemic.