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A pedestrian walks past a billboard posted on Mont-Royal Street in the Plateau section of Montreal (Christinne Muschi/Christinne Muschi/The Globe and Mail)
A pedestrian walks past a billboard posted on Mont-Royal Street in the Plateau section of Montreal (Christinne Muschi/Christinne Muschi/The Globe and Mail)

Astral Media hikes dividend, plans stock buyback Add to ...

Astral Media Inc. is raising its annual dividend to $1 per share after a year of strong growth, which included the media company surpassing the $1-billion mark in revenues for the first time, chief executive Ian Greenberg said Tuesday.

“The pursuit of high performance is who we are and it has paved the way for today’s important announcement,” Greenberg told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting, held in Toronto.

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“Astral’s board of directors has approved a significant 33 per cent increase of our annual dividend to $1 per share,” he said via webcast.

Greenberg said Astral had consolidated revenues in fiscal 2011 of $1.2-billion, an increase of six per cent.

Montreal-based Astral has had 15 consecutive years and 60 consecutive quarters of profitable growth, he added.

Net income grew seven per cent in fiscal 2011 to $185.2-million and diluted earnings per share were $3.25, an eight per cent increase, Greenberg said.

Astral’s board also authorized a share buyback program of up to five per cent of the company’s outstanding shares over the next 12 months.

Greenberg said Astral will focus on improving its multiplatform offerings to advertisers and better packaging its content for consumers. Astral also is working to make consumers more aware of its brand and its programming, he said.

With its 21 television services, Astral is Canada’s largest pay and specialty TV broadcaster. It is also the largest radio company with 83 radio stations in 50 Canadian markets and the third-largest outdoor advertising company.

Astral provides pay TV services such as The Movie Network, which has almost two million subscribers. It has deals with more than 100 U.S. movie studios and cable channels HBO and Showtime for exclusive programming to broadcast on its pay TV services such as The Movie Network.

Shares in Astral closed up five cents at $33.70 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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