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Applied Materials Lifts Dividend 13%, Adds $3 Billion To Buybacks

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Applied Materials Inc. (AMAT) raised its quarterly dividend 13% and authorized up to $3 billion in stock buybacks over the next three years, joining a growing list of companies that have stepped up efforts to reward shareholders of late. The penny per-share dividend increase--to 9 cents a share--will cost the company about $5.16 million more each year. Applied's current stock-repurchase program launched in 2010 meanwhile has less than $1 billion worth of buybacks remaining. That program will end when the new plan goes into effect. The new buyback program is slated to expire in March 2015. Many companies have raised payouts to shareholders in recent months to signal confidence in their business prospects while reassuring investors who might have been dissuaded by last fall's stock market volatility. Applied Materials' latest fiscal first-quarter profit slumped on weaker sales and acquisition costs, but the semiconductor-equipment maker said recent orders would deliver a stronger result in the second quarter. Chairman and Chief Executive Mike Splinter on Monday said the latest dividend increase demonstrates the company's confidence in its ability to generate strong cash flow across business cycles. "Both the dividend and the share repurchase program demonstrate our ongoing commitment to return capital to our shareholders, while we continue to invest in the long-term growth of our businesses," Splinter said. Shares were recently up 1%, at $12.15 after hours. The stock is off 28% over the past year through Monday's close. -By Drew FitzGerald, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2909;

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