Saturday, August 27, 2011

5 Companies Increasing Dividends

Financial, industrial and chemical firms top payout performers

In a week of news dominated by the resignation of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs, the continuation of 100-plus point Dow swings and, of course, the anticipation of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s Friday conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo., it’s easy to forget that companies still are reporting earnings, and still increasing dividends. This week’s crop of payout performers includes a petroleum refiner, two financial firms, a chemical company and an industrial sensor firm.
The diversity of companies increasing dividends always is an interesting data point for assessing markets because it gives us a clue as to which sectors of the economy still are performing well. It also tells us there’s money to be made in stalwart dividend payers even while the wider market continues to be a cauldron of news-stirred volatility. Here are five companies increasing dividends this week.
Bank holding company First Financial (NASDAQ:FFBC) serves the Midwest and provides wealth management, trust and estate planning services. The company offered a service to shareholders on Tuesday, Aug. 24, when its board declared a quarterly cash dividend of 27 cents per common share. The previous quarterly dividend was just 12 cents per share. The upcoming dividend will consist of a regular quarterly dividend of 12 cents per share, and a variable dividend of 15 cents per share based on the remainder of the second-quarter 2011 diluted earnings per share of 27 cents per share. The dividends will be payable on Oct. 3 to shareholders of record as of Sept. 2. The new dividend yield, based on the Aug. 24 closing stock price of $16, is 6.75%.

First PacTrust Bancorp, Inc.

First PacTrust Bancorp, Inc. (NASDAQ:FPTB), the holding company for Pacific Trust Bank, entrusted shareholders with a dividend increase to 11.5 cents per share. The previous dividend was 11 cents per share. The new payout will be dealt on Oct. 3 to shareholders of record as of Sept. 9. The new dividend yield, based on the Aug. 24 closing price of $12.18, is 3.78%. In a statement accompanying the dividend increase, First PacTrust noted that this will be the second cash dividend that is subject to the company’s new dividend reinvestment plan, or DRIP, in which all registered shareholders participate in unless they choose to opt out. Participants in the DRIP program can convert the value of their cash dividend into the direct purchase of stock at a 3% discount from market price.

HollyFrontier Corporation

Independent petroleum refiner and marketer HollyFrontier Corporation (NYSE:HFC) pumped up its quarterly dividend, filling the tank with a 17.5 cent-per-share payout, an increase of two cents per share from the previous payment. The new dividend will be made Oct. 4 to shareholders of record on Sept. 16. The new yield, based on the Aug. 25 closing price of $66, is 1.06%. Along with HollyFrontier’s payout increase, the company also said its shares will split 2-for-1 in a 100% special stock dividend payable on Aug. 31. The increased rate amount will apply to outstanding shares before the split. After the split, the quarterly dividend will be 8.75 cents per share.

MTS Systems

Test systems and industrial sensor maker MTS Systems (NASDAQ:MTSC) gave investors a good sense of how it’s performing of late, announcing a 25% increase in its quarterly cash dividend to 25 cents per share. The new dividend is payable on Oct. 3 to shareholders of record as of Sept. 15. The increase represents the 119th consecutive quarterly dividend paid by the stalwart industrial firm. The new dividend yield, based on the Aug. 25 closing stock price of $34.93, is 2.86%. Separately, MTS CEO Laura Hamilton resigned from the company. Her departure comes months after MTS was suspended from federal government contracting over a disclosure issue.

Westlake Chemical

Specialty chemical maker Westlake Chemical (NYSE:WLK) went into its fiscal lab and mixed up a 16% increase in its quarterly dividend. The statement announcing the new dividend of 7.375 cents per share also came with a pledge to begin a $100 million share repurchase program. The new dividend, up from 6.35 cents per share, will be payable Sept. 13 to shareholders of record Sept. 2. Westlake said the share repurchase will start immediately. Buybacks will be made in the open market and/or in privately negotiated transactions. The new dividend yield, based on the Aug. 22 closing price of $38.20, is 0.79%.

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