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Unum Stays Investor Friendly, Hikes Div

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Unum Group (UNM - Free Report) hiked its quarterly dividend by 14% to 16.5 cents per share marking six straight years of increase.

The annualized dividend of 66 cents per share yields 2.0% based on the closing price of $32.89 on May 20, 2014. The yields also outperform the industry average of 2.09%. The increased dividend is expected to be paid in the third quarter of this year.

Unum Group has an impressive track of raising dividend each year. Last May, the board approved an 11.5% increase in its quarterly dividend to 14.5 cents. The accident and health insurer has increased its dividend by about 120% over the last 7 years.

A sturdy financial position backed by continued solid operational performance positions it well to increase payouts. Unum’s cash from operations in the first quarter improved 30.8% year over year with retained earnings standing solid at $8.3 billion (up 2.4% from 2013 end).

Unum Group, riding on the strength of capital management, outperformed the Zacks Consensus Estimate for straight eight quarters with an average of 3.2%.

Apart from a dividend increase, Unum also engages in share buybacks that lower the share count to boost the bottom line. With $100 million shares bought back in the last quarter, the tally reaches $2.6 billion over the last six and half years, lowering share count by about 29%.

There was no earnings revision momentum witnessed in the last seven days. With the news of dividend hike which retains investor confidence as well as attract potential investors, we expect analysts to move their estimates northward putting upward pressure on Zacks Rank. The stock presently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Several insurers are treading the same path as Unum Group and announcing dividend increases. Recently, the board of directors of ACE Ltd. approved a dividend hike of 3% to 65 cents per share. The board of directors of W.R. Berkley Corp. (WRB - Free Report) announced a 10% hike in the quarterly dividend to 44 cents per share. Furthermore, the board of directors of RLI Corp. (RLI - Free Report) announced a 5.9% hike in the quarterly dividend to 18 cents per share.

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