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Specialty chemicals company Westlake Chemical Corp. (WLK - Snapshot Report) has announced a 20% hike in its quarterly dividend. The dividend has now increased to 22.5 cents per share from the previous payout of 18.75 cents that was paid in the second quarter of 2013.

Westlake will pay the increased dividend on Sep 25, 2013, to stockholders of record as of Sept 10, 2013. Prior to this, Westlake increased its dividend about a year ago in Aug 2012. The company at that time raised its dividend by more than 150% to 18.75 cents from 7.375 cents per share.

Westlake released its second-quarter 2013 results on Jul 30. The company’s earnings of $2.17 per share topped the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.95 and exceeded $1.72 per share earned in the year-ago quarter. Profit shot up 26% year over year to $145.8 million as the company gained from lower cost natural-gas based ethylene production stemming from North American shale gas and oil production.

Revenues rose roughly 3% year over year to $939 million in the quarter, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $932 million. Westlake benefited from increased sales volumes for PVC resin, building products and caustic in the quarter, which offset lower feedstock and ethylene sales volumes.

Westlake saw higher olefins and vinyls integrated product margins in the quarter, helped by lower feedstock costs. It also gained from sequentially higher sales prices for polyethylene and PVC resin and increased volumes for most of its major vinyl products.

During the second quarter, Westlake closed its acquisition of CertainTeed Corporation’s Pipe and Foundation Group (“PFG”) for about $175 million in cash. The acquisition is a strategic fit for Westlake as it enhanced the company's North American Pipe and building products portfolio by adding specialty product lines and supporting technology.

Westlake currently retains a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Other companies in the specialty chemical space with favorable Zacks Rank are Ferro Corp. (FOE - Snapshot Report), Minerals Technologies Inc. (MTX - Snapshot Report) and Sensient Technologies Corporation (SXT - Snapshot Report). All of them retain a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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