The Rich List gets richer

Early data from our research into this year's FinanceAsia Rich List shows strong 12% dividend growth for the region's share owners.
Evergrande's Hui Ka Yan, recipient of one of the biggest dividend cheques in Asia
Evergrande's Hui Ka Yan, recipient of one of the biggest dividend cheques in Asia

Dividend growth in Asia is picking up again after a post-crisis slowdown. Cash payouts for 2013 have risen by 12%, giving a total dividend pool of $138 billion for companies based in Asia ex-Japan, up from $123 billion last year.

That is good news for the region’s tycoons, who by the most conservative analysis own a quarter of all shares in the region — an estimate based on fully disclosed direct holdings by individuals, as recorded by Bloomberg.

In practice, the real level of ownership is much higher as few tycoons own their shares directly, preferring instead to disperse ownership across a web of offshore trusts that can often only be untangled by poring through the dense footnotes to each company’s annual report.

That is something we will be doing during the summer as part of our research for the FinanceAsia Rich List, a ranking of the region’s biggest dividend earners that will be published in the September issue.

Li Ka-shing’s interests in Hutchison Whampoa, Cheung Kong and Power Assets all continue to be among the most lucrative positions in the region, paying out a total of $3 billion this year. We expect the family’s personal dividend income to exceed $1 billion once again.What we can say so far, based on the initial data from Bloomberg, is that the region’s wealthiest business owners have clearly had a good year.

Evergrande’s Hui Ka Yan is in line to collect one of the biggest single dividend payments thanks to his 63.4% interest in the Chinese developer. Evergrande borrowed around $2 billion from the bond markets during the last financial year and paid out more than $1 billion to shareholders, generating roughly $700 million for Hui (mostly held in the name of his wife, Ding Yumei, through a trust in the British Virgin Islands, according to the annual report).

Governments have done well too. The nine biggest dividend-paying companies are all Chinese state-owned enterprises, followed by Indian SoE Coal India. However, most of these companies benefit from subsidies that dwarf the dividend payouts they make.


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