STOCKHOLM, May 5 (Reuters) - Sweden’s Investor AB said on Tuesday it was slimming down its proposed annual dividend due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, but stopped short of cancelling it altogether while holding out the prospect for a further payout later.
The investment firm, founded by the powerful Wallenberg business family and owner of stakes in companies such as Ericsson, Atlas Copco and ABB, proposed a 2019 dividend of 9 crowns ($0.913) per share.
It had originally intended to raise its payout to 14 crowns per share from a year-ago 13 but put the plan on hold in late March as the spread of COVID-19 and moves to curb it went global with a surge in Europe and North America.
“Investor has a strong balance sheet and financial flexibility. However, with 2020 being an exceptional year, at this point we want to be prudent,” Investor Chairman Jacob Wallenberg said in a statement.
“The dividend proposal is in line with the first dividend installment last year and we will consider a potential second installment at a later stage.”
Swedish government ministers and regulators have called on companies to show restraint on dividend payouts to gird for the fallout of the coronavirus crisis, with taxpayers funding support measures to cushion the blow in many industries. ($1 = 9.8580 Swedish crowns) (Reporting by Niklas Pollard)