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Dividend payments are expected to drop for the first time in seven years, reflecting the fallout from the global economic and financial crisis, an economic think tank said Saturday.

Dividend payments for about 2,700 listed firms are projected to reach a total of ¥6.09 trillion for fiscal 2008 ended March 31, down 9.0 percent from fiscal 2007, according to the Financial & Economic Research Center of Nomura Securities Co.

Total dividends for the year through next March are also likely to shrink, the think tank said.

The plunge in dividends, however, is much smaller than the drop in profits, indicating firms are keen to mollify shareholders despite the downturn.

A number of listed firms have not revealed their fiscal 2009 forecasts for stock dividends as the outlook for the economy remains murky.

Of listed firms holding or planning to hold shareholders’ meetings in June, 1,007, or 37.7 percent, will reduce or skip dividends for fiscal 2008, nearly triple the 13.8 percent who did so in fiscal 2007.

For the first half, many companies decided to pay interim dividends roughly equal to what they paid out the previous year, but that trend has apparently changed.

Toshiba Corp. and Nissan Motor Co., both mired in huge net losses, will skip yearend dividends, while Toyota Motor Corp. plans to slash them in the first cutback since the automaker went public, except in fiscal 1994 when a special factor forced it to make a dividend cut.

In contrast, only 15.0 percent of listed companies that intend to hold general shareholders’ meetings plan to increase or resume dividends in fiscal 2008, down from 36.3 percent the previous year.

Executive compensation is expected to be on the agenda of many meetings as well.

With dividends down and jobs scarce, managers may be asked to “share the burden,” said Kengo Nishiyama, a strategist at Nomura.

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