At December 31, 2018, shareholders’ equity was DKK 11,438 million, up 2% from DKK 11,267 million at December 31, 2017, as comprehensive income in 2018 more than offset dividend payments and net stock buyback.
Shareholders’ equity represented 58% of the balance sheet total at December 31, 2018, down from 61% at December 31, 2017.
Return on equity
Return on equity was 28.4%, up 1.3 percentage points from 27.1% in 2017. The increase was a result of higher net profit and a relatively lower increase in equity.
At December 31, 2018, the holding of treasury stock was 9.4 million B shares, equivalent to 3.2% of the common stock.
The Board of Directors proposes that the Annual Shareholders' Meeting approve a dividend of DKK 5.00 per share for the 2018 financial year, an increase of 11% compared with 2017. This will result in an expected total dividend payment of approximately DKK 1,438 million, corresponding to a payout ratio of 44.6%.
Stock buyback program
In 2018, Novozymes bought back 6.2 million B shares with a transaction value of DKK 2,000 million under the stock buyback program initiated on February 14, 2018, and completed on November 28, 2018. The shares acquired within the program will be used to reduce the common stock and to meet obligations arising from employee stock-based incentive programs.