Wal-Mart Boosts Annual Dividend 11%

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Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) said Thursday it raised its annual dividend 11% to $1.21 a share, up from $1.09 paid during 2010. That puts the forward yield at 2.25% at the current stock price.

"We're very pleased that our financial position continues to allow us to pay shareholders an increased dividend again this year," said CEO Mike Duke in a statement. "With our free cash flow, Walmart has the capacity to grow around the world, make strategic acquisitions, and fund returns to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases."

The first quarterly installment of 0.3025 cents a share will be paid April 5 to shareholders of record as of March 12, the company said.

Based upon the fiscal year 2011 dividend payout, the company plans to return more than $4.5 billion to its shareholders in the form of dividends in fiscal year 2011, Wal-Mart said. The company has raised its dividend every year since its first declared dividend of five cents a share in 1974.

Last month the world's largest retailer's fourth-quarter earnings easily beat Street estimates but sales came up soft. Total comparable sales -- sales at stores open at least a year -- fell 1.2% in the fourth quarter, a smaller decline than in previous quarters, but still a bad sign, considering that other retailers have begun to show positive comparisons. Wal-Mart U.S. sales were down 2%, but sales at Sam's Club warehouse stores were up 3.7%, thanks to rising gas prices.


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