UPDATE: ESI, PetMed Declare Special Dividends Ahead of Fiscal Cliff

Date : 12/03/2012 @ 8:19PM
Source : Dow Jones News
Stock : Hca Healthcare, Inc. (HCA)
Quote : 77.07  0.0 (0.00%) @ 2:05AM
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UPDATE: ESI, PetMed Declare Special Dividends Ahead of Fiscal Cliff

Electro Scientific Industries, Inc. (MM) (NASDAQ:ESIO)
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   By Melodie Warner And Kristin Jones 

Electro Scientific Industries Inc. (ESIO) and PetMed Express Inc. (PETS) are the latest companies to declare special dividends ahead of a possible increase in 2013 federal tax rates that may be triggered by the so-called "fiscal cliff."

President Barack Obama and congressional leaders are discussing ways to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, a mix of tax increases and spending cuts set to begin Jan. 2. Other companies that recently unveiled similar one-time dividends ahead of possible changes to dividend taxes include Ethan Allen Interiors Inc. (ETH), Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS), Dillard's Inc. (DDS) and Brown-Forman Corp. (BFA, BFB). Oracle Corp. (ORCL) said late Monday that it will pay dividends for the next three quarters early, an accelerated payment that will cost the company around $867.4 million.

Microtechnology manufacturing company ESI said it will pay a special $2 dividend, citing a recent successful patent settlement. The one-time payout will cost the company around $58.8 million.

PetMed said it will pay a special dividend of $1 a share, which will cost the pet pharmacy around $20 million.

Earlier Monday, Cato Corp. (CATO), HCA Holdings Inc. (HCA) and Dish Network Corp. (DISH) also unveiled special dividends.

Cato, a seller of value-priced women's apparel, declared a $1 special dividend and accelerated the payment of its annual $1 dividend for 2013. Both dividends are payable on or about Dec. 28. Cato also said it expects its board to increase its quarterly dividend by 5 cents, or 20%, in early 2013.

"Given the very unusual circumstances of the fiscal cliff and uncertainty of the federal tax treatment of dividends, paying both a special dividend and our 2013 dividend now is in the best interest of our long-term shareholders," said Chairman and Chief Executive John P.D. Cato.

HCA, the largest private-sector hospital operator in the U.S., declared a special cash dividend of $2 payable on or prior to Dec. 31. The company intends to offer $1 billion of nine-year senior notes to fund the special dividend.

Meanwhile, the satellite-television operator Dish Network declared a special $1 dividend payable on or about Dec. 28.

Write to Melodie Warner at melodie.warner@dowjones.com

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