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North American energy firm, Williams Companies Inc. (WMB - Analyst Report) recently declared its fourth-quarter common stock dividend of 38 cents per share ($1.52 per share annualized), representing a year-over-year increase of 16.9% and a sequential hike of 3.8%. The increased dividend will be paid on Dec 30, 2013 to shareholders of record as of Dec 13, 2013.

Following the latest boost, dividend for full year 2013 stood at $1.44 per share, reflecting a hike of 20.0% compared with $1.20 reported in 2012.

The dividend hike reflects consistently strong performance by Williams, solid operating results, lucrative investments and successful execution of its strategic plan. Based on the closing price of $34.91 as of Nov 21, 2013, the expected annual dividend of $1.52 affirms a yield of 4.4%.

Additionally, Williams maintains its projected 20% dividend hike to $1.75 and $2.11 per share, for 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Tulsa, OK-based Williams is a premier energy infrastructure provider in North America. The company’s core operations include finding, producing, gathering, processing, and transportation of natural gas. Williams divides its business into four segments: Williams Partners, Williams NGL & Petchem Services, Access Midstream Partners, and Other.

Williams currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold), implying that it is expected to perform in line with the broader U.S. equity market over the next one to three months.

Meanwhile, one can look at better-ranked players in the oil production and pipeline sector like Western Gas Partners LP (WES - Snapshot Report), EQT Midstream Partners LP (EQM - Snapshot Report) and Spectra Energy Corp (SE - Analyst Report) that offer value. Western Gas sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) while EQT Midstream and Spectra Energy retain a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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