Costco Latest Company to Announce Special Dividend Ahead of Fiscal Cliff
Costco Wholesale Corporation (Nasdaq: COST) reported sales figures on Wednesday. The company posted net sales of $8.15 billion for the month of November, a nine percent increase compared to $7.51 billion in the same four-week period of 2011. In addition, the company's first quarter net sales for fiscal 2013 -– which began on September 3 and ended on November 25 –- were $23.21 billion, a ten percent increase over $21.18 billion in the first quarter of fiscal 2012 last year.
On October 30, Costco announced a regular quarterly cash dividend of $0.275 per share. The company's Board of Directors announced a special dividend on top of the regular quarterly dividend on Wednesday. This dividend will be paid on all shares of common stock at $7 per share, a payout totaling approximately $3 billion. The dividend will be paid on December 18th to all shareholders of record as of the close of business December 10.
In a statement, Costco Executive Vice President and CFO Richard Galanti said that the special dividend is a response to the company's strong balance sheet and access to credit markets. It was designed as a way to return capital to shareholders and allow the company to remain flexible as it expands into global markets.
The positive first quarter numbers, and the particularly strong sales figures for November, may be behind the announcement. But as previously reported, there has been a recent trend in many companies to declare special dividends. This trend has been created by the looming uncertainty posed by the approach of the fiscal cliff at the end of the year.
Earlier this month, Costco President and CEO Craig Jelinek issued a statement after speaking with President Obama about current fiscal issues, expressing some concerns about how higher income taxes could affect the 115,000 employees of Costco.
In addition to income tax concerns, tax breaks for dividends will expire after the new year if Congress fails to re-enact legislation on automatic rate hikes, and with each day that passes more and more companies are hedging their bets in order to keep capital available should the crisis remain unresolved.
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