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Albemarle Hikes Dividend by 20%

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Albemarle Corporation (ALB - Free Report) has increased its quarterly dividend by 20% to 24 cents per share from the prior payout of 20 cents a share. The raised dividend will be paid on Apr 1, 2013, to stockholders of record as of Mar 15, 2013.

The recent revision marked the company’s 19th consecutive quarterly dividend increase. The hike brings the annual dividend to 96 cents per share.

The Board of Albemarle also increased its share repurchase authorization from 3.9 million to 15 million shares. The company has decided to repurchase nearly 10% of its outstanding shares in the coming 10 to 15 months. It expects to fund the share buyback through a combination of available cash on hand, free cash flow and debt.

The moves adopted by Albemarle testify its commitment to boost shareholders’ value while retaining adequate funds for organic growth and acquisitions.

Albemarle, a leading maker of specialty chemicals, posted its fourth-quarter 2012 results last month. The company reported adjusted earnings (excluding special items) of $1.17 a share in the quarter compared with $1.13 a share earned in the year-ago quarter. The results surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 99 cents, reflecting a positive surprise of around 18%.

Revenues were $687.6 million in the quarter, down 4% from $707.4 million in the year-ago quarter, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $646 million. The results were impacted by lower metal surcharges in the Catalysts segment, more than offsetting volume growth.

Lower demand for the products coupled with unfavorable raw material pricing impact resulted in lower operating rates at the production units in 2012. However, exit from the phosphorus business, lack of pension obligations, strong balance sheet and investments for future growth are expected to benefit the company going forward.

Albemarle retains a short-term (1 to 3 months) Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Other companies in the chemical industry worth considering are Arkema S.A. (ARKAY - Free Report) , PetroLogistics LP and BASF SE (BASFY - Free Report) . All of them hold a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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