Companies worldwide doled out a record $326.7 billion in dividends to shareholders in the first quarter, pushed up by banks, oil giants and automakers, a study showed on Wednesday.

Global dividends surged 12 percent between January and March compared to the same period in 2022, which was already an all-time high, according to the report by asset management firm Janus Henderson.

The first quarter's "strong dividend growth is all the more impressive considering that 2022 was a difficult year for the global economy with high inflation, rising interest rates, conflict and continuing Covid lockdowns," said Ben Lofthouse, head of global equity income at Janus Henderson.

One-off special dividends reached $28.8 billion over the three-month period, the second biggest amount since the first quarter in 2014, the report showed.

US automaker Ford and German rival Volkswagen accounted for almost a third of all special dividends.

"Headline payouts from the vehicles sector were 10 times larger year-on-year as a consequence," the Janus Henderson report said.

Volkswagen used the proceeds from the stock listing of Porsche to pay out a total of $6.3 billion.

Globally, 95 percent of companies increased dividends or held them steady in the first quarter.

Companies are forecast to shell out $1.6 trillion in dividends in 2023 as a whole, according to Janus Henderson.