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10 top U.S. dividend stocks increasing payouts Add to ...

A regulatory filing published on Monday shows that billionaire Carl Icahn's hedge fund Icahn Capital bought 2.4 million shares of Mattel and 5 million shares of Masco in the third quarter. During the quarter, he also unloaded the rest of his shares in Yahoo and Wendy's Arby's. In 2008, Icahn waged a proxy battle against Yahoo! after the company declined Microsoft's buyout offer of up to $47.5-billion; he backed down after obtaining three seats on Yahoo's board.

4. Fast food chain operator Wendy's Arby's upped its quarterly cash dividend by half a penny per share to 2 cents. The higher dividend will be paid next on Dec. 15 to shareholders of record on Dec. 1. The higher payout brings Wendy's yield to 1.7 per cent. Atlanta-based Wendy's increased dividend was announced earlier this month even as Wendy's booked a surprise quarterly loss on weaker-than-expected revenue.

Wendy's also adjusted its forecast, saying 2010 results would likely be toward the low end of its previously announced guidance. "These third-quarter results are simply not satisfactory to us," conceded CEO Roland Smith, who said the quarter was "a difficult one" both for its Wendy's and Arby's brands of fast food restaurants.

5. Lincoln National said last week its board approved a 500 per cent increase to its quarterly dividend. The Radnor, Pen.-based insurer will pay its investors 5 cents per share on a quarterly basis, with the next payday on Feb. 1 to shareholders of record at the close of business on Jan. 10. Lincoln National also declared a regular dividend of 75 cents per share on its $3 Cumulative Convertible Preferred Stock Series A, payable March 5 to shareholders of record at the close of business on Feb. 11. Lincoln National also announced a plan to repurchase up to $125-million of its common stock over a 15-month period and to redeem all $150-million in outstanding 6.75 per cent Series F Trust Preferred Securities issued by Lincoln National Capital VI. Earlier this month analysts at Credit Suisse cut their estimates on Lincoln National through 2010, citing weaker group insurance underwriting and compressed universal life spreads. The firm maintained a neutral rating on Lincoln National's stock.

6. Comerica will reward its shareholders with a 100 per cent increase to its quarterly cash dividend. The Dallas bank will pay 10 cents per share on New Year's Day to its shareholders of record on Dec. 15. Comerica's higher payout brings it yield to 1.1 per cent.

Comerica was featured as one of TheStreet's 10 Banks Likely to Boost Dividends last week. In its dividend announcement made after Monday's market close, the company also said its board of directors had authorized the repurchase of up to 12.6 million shares - or roughly 7 per cent of Comerica's outstanding common stock - as well as warrants to purchase up to 11.5 million common shares.

7. Baxter International increased its dividend by 6.9 per cent. The medical equipment maker will pay its shareholders 31 cents per share. The higher dividend will be paid on Jan. 5 to holders of record on Dec. 10. That brings the Deerfield, Ill.-based company's yield to 2.4 per cent.

Baxter's dividend hike is part of its strategy to reward shareholders with its relatively strong cash flow.

In fiscal 2010 Baxter paid its investors around $2-billion, including $688-million in dividends and $1.3-billion in share repurchases. Late last month Baxter announced it would divest its U.S. generic injectables business to Jordan's Hikma Pharmaceuticals. The deal is valued around $112-million.

8. Sysco announced a dividend increase of 4 per cent last Friday. Houston-based Sysco said it will pay a penny more per share to its shareholders on a quarterly basis, paying 26 cents per share on Jan. 28 to holders of record at the close of business on Jan. 7.

The distributor of food and foodservice products recently posted better-than-expected fiscal first quarter revenue, but earnings came up short on a decline in gross profit margin and higher pension costs.

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