Bruno Le Maire, Minister of the Economy. - AFP

Faced with the coronavirus epidemic, Bruno Le Maire, the Minister of the Economy, called, on Monday, companies using partial unemployment measures not to pay a dividend.

“I invite (…) all the companies which have access today to partial unemployment, that is to say which have their employees paid by the State, to show the greatest moderation as regards payment of dividends, "he said on BFMTV.

Penalties in the opposite case

Before insisting: "I will go further: be exemplary. If you use short-time working, don't pay dividends. (…) I invite all companies benefiting from partial unemployment either to show moderation, or - better - to set an example, not to pay dividends. "Neither will we tolerate that companies make share buybacks and pay dividends to their shareholders (...) Share buybacks will not be compatible with the benefit of the support of the State treasury", also said the minister.

Bruno Le Maire had announced Friday the ban on paying dividends for companies benefiting from a deferral of social or tax charges, or from a loan guaranteed by the State. Otherwise, they "will be obliged to repay this cash advance (...) with an interest penalty", had insisted the Minister. But concerning the companies having recourse to partial unemployment, Bruno Le Maire had simply indicated Friday to invite them "to show the greatest moderation in the payment of the dividends", without calling them to give it up completely.

Nearly 2.2 million partially unemployed workers

Afep, an employers' organization which brings together the 110 largest French private companies, on Sunday asked the groups having benefited from State cash aid to respect the government ban on paying dividends in 2020, while inviting companies using partial unemployment to reduce theirs by 20%. The use of partial unemployment had been requested Friday evening by 220,000 companies for 2.2 million employees in total, according to figures released Sunday by the Minister of Labor, Muriel Pénicaud.

Several large French companies have already given up paying a dividend, notably the specialist in advertising displays JCDecaux, the aircraft manufacturer Airbus, the specialist in floor coverings Tarkett, the motorway restoration company Autogrill and the retail giant Auchan Holdings. The aeronautical engine manufacturer and equipment supplier Safran canceled the payment of its 2019 dividend on Friday, which was expected to total a billion euros.


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