Insurer and asset manager AXA has announced it will halve its dividend amid pressure from regulators on firms to rethink their shareholder distributions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
AXA said it would slash its payout, due on 9 July, to €0.73 per share, from €1.43, after the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) and the Autorité de Contrôle Prudentiel et de Résolution (ACPR) suggested firms adopted "a prudent approach towards dividend distributions".
The Paris-based company added it may continue proposing a further dividend payment of €0.7 in Q4 2020 to make up for the cut, "subject to favourable market and regulatory conditions at that time".
Chairman of AXA's board Dennis Duverne said the firm's priority from the start of the pandemic "has been to act responsibly towards all its stakeholders".
"AXA's first priority has been to help its customers navigate through this crisis and to protect the safety of its employees, including guaranteeing their full employment for the duration of the confinement period," Duverne explained.
"The group also continues to support its most impacted customers by taking a range of exceptional measures beyond its contractual obligations, and the wider community by participating in national solidarity efforts including contributions to various public funds.
"Reflecting the strength of the group's balance sheet, AXA has fulfilled these undertakings without requesting any government aid.
"The board of directors' decision to reduce the proposed dividend demonstrates the same sense of responsibility towards AXA's institutional and individual shareholders, while adopting a prudent approach in the current environment."
AXA said it would not be able to provide an estimate of the impact of Covid-19 on investment margin or unit-linked and asset management fees during 2020, as it "will depend on the evolution of financial market conditions through the remainder of the year".