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Firms are on course to pay a record £88.6bn in dividends

Research for The Mail on Sunday shows that even though many firms are struggling to generate extra profits, they are rewarding investors with a payouts bonanza.

Royal Dutch Shell tops the generosity league. It is set to pay dividends of more than £11 billion this year, followed by HSBC, £7.6 billion, and BP, £6 billion, in third place.

The research is likely to cause controversy, coming just days after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, criticised businesses for focusing on short-term profits and called for a wealth tax to create a fairer society and higher wages for working people.

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