Wal-Mart Stores raised its annual dividend by 8.9 per cent, as momentum in the company’s key Walmart US chain has rebounded.
The increased payout comes as the world’s largest retailer works on balancing its need to invest in growing its business with the desire to attract shareholders who have seen Wal-Mart miss out during the broad market rally.
“Part of the reason that people own the stock is that it pays a dividend,” said Consumer Edge Research analyst Faye Landes. Wal-Mart wants “to have a nice payout, but they also feel that they have other places to put their capital.”
Wal-Mart said its board approved a dividend of $1.59 per share for fiscal 2013, which ends next January, up from $1.46 last year. That equates to paying about $5.52 billion to shareholders.
The family of founder Sam Walton stands to get about half of that payout, as it owns close to 50 per cent of Wal-Mart’s outstanding shares through various entities.
Wal-Mart has been a big buyer of its shares, spending $6.3 billion buybacks during fiscal 2012. Wal-Mart has raised its payout every year since it first declared a dividend of 5 cents per share in 1974. The latest increase comes after a 20.7 per cent hike a year ago. Shares of Wal-Mart, a component of the Dow Jones industrial average, were down 0.4 per cent at $58.84 after rising to $59.42 earlier in the day. This year, shares of Wal-Mart fell 1.1 per cent, while the Dow rose 6 per cent, through Feb.29.
Wal-Mart has high expectations for the current fiscal year, with the core Walmart US business “back on track,” Chief Executive Mike Duke said in a statement.
Walmart US posted its second straight rise in quarterly same-store sales last week, and traffic in the stores rose for the first time after six quarterly declines. Wal-Mart continues to invest in areas such as e-commerce, where it trails market leader Amazon.com Inc, and needs to cut costs to keep its prices low in the United States. Wal-Mart’s international business is still growing and the Sam’s Club warehouse chain has done well.
The dividend increase would bring Wal-Mart’s dividend yield up to 2.69 per cent based on Wednesday’s closing price of $59.08 on the New York Stock Exchange.