Dividends from AIM stocks have tripled between 2012 and 2018, almost four times faster than the main market, despite only one third of AIM companies paying a dividend.
According to the debut AIM Dividend Monitor by Link Asset Services, the average annual growth has been 18.6% compared to 4.9% on the main market.
The total dividends paid by AIM companies are set to pass £1bn in 2018 at £1.16bn, almost three times the £417m distributed in 2012.
Link attributed the growth in AIM dividends to the increasing maturity of AIM companies, the larger size of new listings - which are paying dividends at an earlier stage - and a broad sector mix.
In contrast to the main market, only one third of AIM companies pay a dividend versus four fifths of those in the FTSE main market.
Meanwhile, the top ten largest payers only account for 24% of total dividends, down from 30% in 2012, compared to more than half on the main market.
They are also more dominated by UK domestic companies in areas such as manufacturing and IT versus huge multi-nationals, which often pay out their dividends in US dollars.
Some 26% of AIM dividends were paid by banks & financials in 2017 while 24% came from industrials. In contrast, only 1% came from oil, gas and energy, a significant dividend payer for the main market at 20%.
Dividends were also unrepresentative of size with only 14 of the largest 20 AIM companies paying a dividend. The largest AIM company ASOS has never paid a dividend.
AIM stock Fever-Tree distributed £12.3m in the last 12 months, which is ten times more than it did in 2015. Asset manager Polar Capital paid out £22.9m to make it one of the top five largest payers.
Looking into 2019, Link said it expected dividends would grow from £1.16bn this year to £1.3bn.
Justin Cooper, chief executive of Link Market Services, part of Link Asset Services, said: "We rightly associate AIM with young companies, hungry for capital to grow.
"The value of capital being returned to investors via dividends is still much smaller than the amount being raised for investment, but the speed at which dividends are growing shows that more and more companies are coming of age, and reaching that important milestone where they generate more cash than they absorb.
"It's frankly astonishing to see such consistent and such dramatic growth year in, year out."
Richard Power, head of small companies at Octopus Investments, said: "People often underestimate the dividend-paying capacity of AIM companies. Early-stage fledgling stocks are hungry for new capital, and so do not tend to pay dividends, but there are hundreds more which are maturing steadily and beginning to generate cash, even after their investment needs are satisfied.
"Not only are their profits growing, which is supporting dividend growth, but they are increasing the proportion of profits that they distribute too.
"That means dividend growth can easily outstrip the larger stocks on the main market, many of which have struggled to grow payouts at all in recent years."
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