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Altria increases its quarterly dividend

Altria Group Inc. Wednesday raised its quarterly dividend 7.5 percent to 86 cents a share, less than some analysts had expected.
/ Source: Reuters

Altria Group Inc. Wednesday raised its quarterly dividend 7.5 percent to 86 cents a share, less than some analysts had expected.

But the company made no comments about timing for its expected spin-off of Kraft Foods Inc. Altria stock, which had been up earlier in the day, turned slightly lower.

Some analysts had expected the company to announce the Kraft spin-off following the company’s board meeting Thursday, though many said the plan would not be announced until later this year.

“The board is not going to act prematurely and any potential restructuring will proceed on our own timeline,” Altria spokeswoman Lisa Gonzalez said. She would not comment on any board deliberations about a spin-off.

The dividend increase marks the 39th time in 37 years the parent of the Philip Morris tobacco companies and Kraft has raised its dividend.

The dividend increase at the company’s August board meeting has become an annual event for the company, so the market had expected the move.

But some analysts had expected Altria to increase the dividend by about 10 percent.

The new annualized rate of $3.44 a share gives Altria a dividend yield of 4.11 percent, the third-highest in the Dow Jones industrial average, behind  AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications. 

Altria said the new dividend is payable Oct. 10 to shareholders of record Sept. 15. The ex-dividend date is Sept. 13.