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Air Products Raises Quarterly Dividend 18%

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Air Products & Chemicals Inc. (APD) board raised the industrial-gas maker's quarterly dividend 18%, while the company touted its $350 million in share repurchases since the end of the year. The popularity of dividends has increased alongside share buybacks as companies seek ways to appeal to investors and utilize cash stockpiles now that they don't need to clutch cash as tightly in an improving economy with easier credit. Air Products moved the dividend to 58 cents from 49, with the increase costing roughly $19 million each quarter. The $350 million in repurchases represents roughly 2% of the company's current market value, based on the company's number of shares outstanding on Jan. 18 listed in a filing. Air Products, which been tied up in court proceedings over its hostile bid for rival Airgas Inc. (ARG) recently, reported its fiscal first-quarter profit rose on better-than-expected revenue gains despite charges from the Airgas offer. Shares were up 2.3% at $86.09 in recent trading. -By Joan E. Solsman, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2291;

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