Events in Europe once again dominated this week’s trade. But unlike the previous week, investors took solace in positive developments from the region. The resignation of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou should pave the way for a bailout of Greek debt, and the expected resignation of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi helped set the stage for that country to approve a new austerity plan designed to ward off its debt issues.
The renewed optimism over Europe, along with strong earnings and better-than-expected consumer sentiment figures released on Friday, led to some big end-of-the week buying that sent the Dow back above 12,000. Amid the stocks rebounding this week after Wednesday’s ugly tumble were a slew of companies sweetening the pot to shareholders. Ten companies made it onto our Companies Increasing Dividends list this week:
Prescription drug supplier AmerisourceBergen (NYSE:ABC) increased the dose on its payout, raising its quarterly dividend to 13 cents per share from 11.5 cents. The new dividend will be paid Dec. 5 to shareholders of record as of Nov. 21. The new dividend yield, based on the Nov. 10 closing price of $38.73 (the day the dividend was announced), is 1.34%.
Natural gas provider Atmos Energy (NYSE:ATO) turned up the heat on its quarterly payout, upping its dividend by a half-penny to 34.5 cents per share. The new dividend will be paid Dec. 12 to shareholders of record as of Nov. 25. The new dividend yield, based on the Nov. 9 closing price of $34.32, is 4.02%. The increased dividend came along with fourth-quarter net income that rose to $2 million, or 2 cents per share, from $1.5 million a year earlier.
Payroll and business outsourcing firm Automatic Data Processing (NASDAQ:ADP) processed a bigger quarterly check to shareholders, lifting its payout 10% to 39.5 cents per share from 36 cents. The increased dividend will be distributed on Jan. 1 to shareholders of record as of Dec. 9. The new dividend yield, based on the Nov. 8 closing price of $52.85, is 2.99%. The increased dividend marks the 37th consecutive year in which the company has hiked its payout. Separately, ADP said it has promoted President and Chief Operating Officer Carlos A. Rodriguez to replace its retiring CEO Gary C. Butler.
Shopping center and mini-mall real estate investment trust Developers Diversified Realty (NYSE:DDR) increased the rent it pays to shareholders, bumping its quarterly payout 33% to 8 cents per share. The new dividend is payable Jan. 6 to shareholders of record as of Dec. 16. The new dividend yield, based on the Nov. 8 closing price of $12.47, is 2.57%.
Insurance seller and wealth management product provider Lincoln National (NYSE:LNC) made a move to insure the wealth of shareholders, raising its quarterly dividend by 60% to 8 cents from 5 cents. The new dividend yield, based on the Nov. 10 closing price of $19.54, is 1.64%. Last week, Lincoln National reported a decline in third-quarter earnings of 42%, as volatile markets contributed to a steep realized loss in investment holdings. Despite the loss, the company said core operating results exceeded expectations.
Drugmaker Merck (NYSE:MRK) went into its fiscal lab and concocted a new quarterly payout. The new dividend of 42 cents per share represents a 10.5% increase over the 38 cents it paid a year earlier. The pharmaceutical giant said it will pay the new dividend on Jan. 9 to shareholders of record as of Dec. 15. The new dividend yield, based on the Nov. 10 closing price of $34.97, is 4.80%. Merck recently said it has 19 drug candidates in late-stage clinical trials, as it seeks to cushion the blow from upcoming generic competition to its best-selling drugs.
Diversified insurer and financial services giant Prudential Financial (NYSE:PRU) opened its wallet and delivered a 26% increase in its annual dividend. The annual payout will be delivered on Dec. 16 to shareholders of record as of Nov. 22. The new dividend yield, based on the Nov. 8 closing price of $54.44, is 2.66%. The company said its annual payout is the highest it has ever paid to shareholders.
Precious metals streaming giant Silver Wheaton (NYSE:SLW) set a higher dividend stream for shareholders, raising its annual dividend to 36 cents per share from 12 cents. The new dividend yield, based on the Nov. 9 closing price of $35.05, is 1.03%. The company also set a new dividend policy that links quarterly payments to operating cash flows in the prior quarter. The new quarterly dividend per share now will be equal to 20% of the cash generated by operating activities in the previous quarter, divided by the company’s outstanding common shares. Based on the new policy, Silver Wheaton’s fourth-quarter cash dividend for 2011 is 9 cents per common share. The new dividend will be paid on Dec. 5 to shareholders of record as of Nov. 23.
Auction house operator Sotheby’s (NYSE:BID) increased its bid to shareholders, raising its quarterly dividend by 60% to 8 cents per share. The fourth-quarter dividend is payable on Dec. 15 to shareholders of record as of Dec. 1. The new dividend yield, based on the Nov. 7 closing price of $34.44, is 0.93%. The company also reported a loss of $29.7 million in Q4, which was way off the loss of $19.4 million a year earlier. Revenue also suffered, falling 20% to $58.2 million. Both top- and bottom- line results fell short of Wall Street forecasts.
Tobacco leaf merchant and processor Universal (NYSE:UVV) rolled up a fatter payout to shareholders, increasing its dividend by 2.1% to 49 cents per share. The new quarterly payment will be made on Feb. 13 to shareholders of record as of Jan. 9. The new dividend yield, based on the Nov. 8 closing price of $43.31, is 4.53%. The company also said its board approved a buyback of up to $100 million worth of common stock. The repurchases may be made from time to time on the open market or in privately negotiated deals at prices not exceeding prevailing market rates. Universal currently has about 23.2 million common shares outstanding.
At the time of publication, Jim Woods held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. For more, see previous weeks’ lists of Companies Increasing Dividends.