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Dividend Roundup: SPRD, STEI, GIS, AYR, ODC

June 29, 2011 | About:
Here are the five latest dividend-related developments featured on The Dynamic Dividend:

Spreadtrum Initiates Dividend in Face of Muddy Water Allegations

Spreadtrum Communications (SPRD) declared a quarterly dividend of $0.05 per American Depositary Share this morning, which will be the first from the Chinese semiconductor company.

Spreadtrum took a nosedive yesterday, falling as much as 34% after becoming the latest Chinese company to be openly targeted by short-selling firm Muddy Waters, which wrote of “high risk material misstatements.” Spreadtrum immediately denied the claims, and held a conference call this morning to address the situation. A replay of the call and supporting materials are available here.

SPRD rocketed to $14.16 (+13.37%) in pre-market trading Wednesday, where it now yields 1.41%. If its pre-market gains hold, Spreadtrum’s ADR will actually open higher than it was trading prior to the Muddy Waters accusations.

Stewart Pushes Yield Over 2% with 17% Dividend Hike

Stewart Enterprises Inc. (STEI) announced a 16.7% increase to its quarterly dividend after today’s closing bell, pushing its quarterly payout to $0.035 per share and its yield over 2% for the first time this year. This is the second time the death care company has given its shareholders a raise since reinstating its payout in 2005.

Within the same press release, Stewart also announced a $25 million increase to its existing share repurchase program, which had a remaining balance of $11.9 million.

Shares of STEI closed Tuesday’s session at $6.89, where they now yield 2.03%. This is the first time the stock has featured a yield above 2% since December 7 of last year, when it closed at $5.90. The company’s old dividend rate rate produced a 2.04% yield at that level.

Stewart suspended its dividend in 2000 when the company anticipated its earnings falling below the threshold allowed by its bank credit facility, which would have triggered a restriction on dividend payments. The company reinstated its quarterly payout at $0.025 per share in 2005, and raised it to $0.03 per share in 2009.

General Mills' 11th Dividend Hike in 7 Years

General Mills (GIS) declared a quarterly dividend of $0.305 per share after today’s closing bell, an 8.9% improvement over the $0.28 paid each of the previous four quarters by the consumer foods giant, which is currently on pace to improve its dividend output for the eighth consecutive year.

Shares of GIS closed Tuesday’s session at $37.21, where they now yield 3.28%.

General Mills ended a streak of 22 consecutive quarters without a dividend hike when it finally gave its shareholders a raise in mid-2004. The company has now increased its payout 11 times since that flat period, pushing its quarterly rate higher by a total of 122% in less than seven years.

Aircastle Pushes Yield Over 4% With Dividend Hike

Aircastle Limited (AYR) declared a quarterly dividend of $0.125 per share this morning, boosting its payout by 25%. This is the first time the company, which acquires and leases/sells commercial jets to airlines, has raised its dividend since cutting it by more than 85% in 2008.

The company also announced the authorization of a $30 million increase to its existing share repurchase program, which had a balance of roughly $60 million remaining.

Aircastle introduced a quarterly dividend of $0.35 per share in October 2006 and managed to raise its rate each of the next five quarters, doubling its payout to a peak of $0.70 per share by the end of 2007. But in 2008 the company reversed course, delivering two large reductions that sent its quarterly payout down to $0.10 per share, which is where it remained until today’s announcement.

Shares of AYR opened Monday’s session trading at $12.26, where they now feature a 4.08% dividend yield.

Oil-Dri Raises Dividend For Ninth Consecutive Year

Oil-Dri Corporation of America (ODC) declared a quarterly dividend of $0.17 per share late Thursday, pushing its payout higher by 6.3%. This marks the ninth* straight year the specialty sorbent products company has given its shareholders a raise.

Oil-Dri held its payout flat from 1999 until 2003, when it gave a 22% raise to its shareholders. The company has raised its dividend at least once annually since then, improving its payout by a total of 136% since its run began.

Oil-Dri has bumped its quarterly rate by exactly a penny each of the last five years, slowly dwindling the impact of its increases. This dividend hike is actually the smallest, percentage-wise, from the company during its nine-year run.

Shares of ODC closed Thursday’s session trading at $19.52, where they now feature a 3.48% dividend yield.

*Oil-Dri’s press release says its board of directors “has increased dividends annually for the past eight years,” but they’re selling themselves short. The company raised its payout in 2003, and has done so each subsequent year, making this the ninth in a row.

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Dynamic Dividend
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