China stock market

Stock traders punish Gree Electric for not paying dividend for first time in a decade

China’s biggest maker of air conditioners plunged as much as 10 per cent after declaring it would not issue a dividend despite growth

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 April, 2018, 1:21pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 April, 2018, 11:05pm

Many Chinese investors have come to expect healthy dividends these days. In fact, when they don’t get them, their outrage is often reflected immediately in the share price.

As such Gree Electric Appliances, China’s biggest maker of air conditioners, tumbled by as much as 9.9 per cent in Shenzhen trading on Thursday after declaring it would not be issuing a dividend for the first time in a decade.

The stock was down by 9 per cent to 45.58 yuan at the close on Thursday. Selling was heavy, with trading volumes up by more than five times the 30-day average, according to Bloomberg data.

Despite a 45 per cent increase in net income last year, Gree said in an exchange filing that it has no plan to pay dividends because it wants to reserve capital to expand capacity and make investments in new areas, such as smart equipment and integrated circuits.

The shares of its main rival, Midea Group, a manufacturer of electric appliances from fridges to air conditioners, fared better even after posting slower earnings growth than Gree. They dropped 2.3 per cent to 51.40 yuan on Thursday after announcing a dividend of 1.2 yuan per share based on profit that increased 18 per cent last year.

“Some investors buy Gree’s shares for the sake of its generous dividend payouts as the company is seen as a typical big blue-chip company on China’s stock market,” said Wang Chen, a partner with Xufunds Investment Management in Shanghai. “Unlike small investors, they do care about the issue.”

Gree’s dividend payout ratio – the dividends paid to shareholders as a percentage of annual profits – has been at least 41 per cent since 2012, according to Bloomberg data. The company used a record 72 per cent of its profits to pay dividends in 2015 and the ratio was 70 per cent in 2016, the data showed.

The stock was the fourth-worst performer on the CSI 300 Index on Thursday, the broader gauge sliding 1.9 per cent. Even after today’s decline, shares of Gree remain up by 4.3 per cent this year. The stock jumped 78 per cent in 2017 as a boom in the property market in China’s third- and fourth-tier cities stoked demand for white goods.