Home Depot Approves $18B Buyback; Boosts Dividend 26 Pct.

ATLANTA (AP) — Home Depot authorized the repurchase of $18 billion of its own shares and boosted its quarterly dividend by 26 percent.

         The home-improvement store also beat Wall Street expectations for profit and revenue during the fourth quarter and it released a better-than-expected outlook for the year.

         Shares rose 3 percent before the opening bell and appeared headed for an all-time high.

         The Atlanta company's buyback program announced Tuesday replaces a prior authorization. Home Depot has returned more than $53 billion of cash to shareholders through buybacks from 2002 through Feb. 1.

         The chain plans to complete $18 billion in buybacks by fiscal 2017's end.

         Its dividend will now be 59 cents per share. The dividend will be paid on March 26 to shareholders of record on March 12. Home Depot said it's the 112th consecutive quarter that it has paid a cash dividend.

         Home Depot posted fourth-quarter profit of $1.38 billion, or $1.05 per share, for the period ended Feb. 1, well above the 89 cents per share that analysts had expected, according to a survey by FactSet.

         Revenue was $19.16 billion, also better than Wall Street's projection of $18.68 billion.

         Sales at stores open at least a year increased 7.9 percent in the quarter, 8.9 percent if only U.S. stores are counted.

         For the year, Home Depot earned $4.71 per share on revenue of $83.18 billion.

         The company now expects 2015 earnings of between $5.11 and $5.17 per share. Revenue is expected to climb about 3.5 to 4.7 percent.

         Wall Street is looking for full-year earnings of $4.50 per share.

         The Home Depot Inc. had 2,269 retail stores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, 10 Canadian provinces and Mexico at the fourth quarter's end.

         Shares, which rose $3.72 to $116 in premarket trading, are already up 14 percent over the past three months in a year in which the company has repeatedly hit new highs.




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