Sainsbury’s has come under fire for declaring a huge increase in dividends – a large chunk of which will go to foreign shareholders – while staff and shoppers struggle with the cost of living crisis.
The dividend is 24% higher than in 2021 and the largest since 2015. Profits doubled last year to £730 million but are expected to drop back this year.
About £75 million of the payout will go to the two biggest shareholders, the Qatar Investment Authority, which has a 15% stake, and billionaire Daniel Křetínský who has a 10% stake.
It comes as the Big 4 grocer prepares to unveil a sizable bonus for chief executive Simon Roberts, who says the supermarket is doing ‘everything it can’ to cut prices.
Roberts waived his previous £1 million due to the pandemic but is set to receive a big payday this year.
He is eligible for a bonus worth up to 220% of his £875,000 salary. That would take his total package to nearly £3 million.
“This tells quite a sad story about inequality and the way the modern economy works,” High Pay Centre employee Luke Hildyard said.
“Businesses have a responsibility to do the right thing by shareholders, customers and workers.
“Our research shows companies prioritising the interests of wealthy investors and executives over ordinary employees time and time again. It is driving an increasing belief that big business doesn’t act in the interests of the country as a whole.”
The news comes after Sainsbury’s faced pressure from shareholders, led by campaign group ShareAction, to commit to paying ‘real living wage’ to all its employees.
Sainsbury’s has been paying real living wages to all its directly employed staff since May but said it is not doing so for its third party contractors, such as cleaners and security guards.
Sainsbury’s said: “As a listed business we always try to balance the needs of all our stakeholders, including our customers, colleagues, suppliers and shareholders.”
“We understand that households are counting every penny right now, and that’s why by the end of the year we will have spent over £500 million to keep prices down on the essential items our customers buy the most.”