Stock Buyback Plans Lift Carnival and Agilent Shares

Andrew Klips  |

Shareholders of Carnival Corp. (CCL) and Agilent Technologies Inc. (A) got a pleasant surprise Thursday morning as each of the companies announced fresh stock repurchase plans.

Miami, Florida-based Carnival said that its board has renewed the authorization of the buyback of up to $1 billion of its common stock.  The world’s biggest cruise ship operator also declared a dividend of 25 cents per share to shareholders of record on February 22, 2013 with payment slated for March 15.  Since the start of fiscal 2013, Carnival has repurchased $78 million, bringing the total from a 2007 $1 billion repurchase plan to $835 million.  The board upped the ante on the remaining $165 million of the original plan to $1 billion.

The buyback includes Carnival common stock traded on the New York Stock Exchange and Carnival PLC ordinary shares traded on the London Stock Exchange.

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"Our ongoing share repurchase program demonstrates our continued confidence in the earnings power of our global brands," said Micky Arison, Carnival Corporation & plc chairman and CEO.  "We remain committed to increasing shareholder returns through a combination of dividend distributions and opportunistic share repurchases."

Shares of CCL gapped up at the opening bell and have given some of those gains back, but are still ahead by 22 cents at $38.04 one hour into the session.

Agilent said that its board authorized a stock-buyback program of up to $500 million of the company’s common stock.  The new plan replaces an existing program which authorized the repurchase of shares to reduce or eliminate share dilution from equity programs.

The maker of testing and measurement equipment also boosted its quarterly dividend by 20 percent, from 10 cents per share to 12 cents per share, starting in the second quarter.  Shareholders of record on April 2 can expect the dividend to be paid on April 24.  The larger payout will cost the company about $7 million per quarter.

“Today’s announcement of the stock repurchase program and increased quarterly dividend reflects our confidence in Agilent’s future cash generation capabilities and our commitment to return capital to shareholders,” said Bill Sullivan, chief executive at Agilent.

Shares of Agilent are up 62 cents to $43.67 in Thursday morning trading.  Shares have surged about 24 percent in the past two months.

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