Dividend Changes: Coca-Cola Company, Northwestern Corp, P.F. Chang’s, Fred’s, Group 1 Automotive, Koppers

The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO): The Board of Directors of The Coca-Cola Company today approved the Company’s 50th consecutive annual dividend increase, raising the quarterly dividend 8.5 percent from 47 cents to 51 cents per common share. This is equivalent to an annual dividend of $2.04 per share, up from $1.88 per share in 2011. The first quarterly dividend is payable April 1, 2012, to shareowners of record as of March 15, 2012. The increase reflects the Board’s confidence in the Company’s long-term cash flow. The Company returned $8.6 billion to shareowners in 2011, through $4.3 billion in dividends and $4.3 billion in share repurchases.

Northwestern Corp. (NYSE:NWE) raises quarterly dividend to 37c from 36c.

P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Inc. (NASDAQ:PFCB): The Board of Directors authorized an increase to the Company’s quarterly cash dividend payment from $0.25 to $0.275 per share on the Company’s outstanding common stock, an increase of 10%. The next quarterly dividend is payable on March 12, 2012 to shareholders of record at the close of business on February 27, 2012.

Fred’s Inc. (NASDAQ:FRED): Fred’s board has increased the company’s quarterly cash dividend 20% to 6c per share from the previous rate of 5c per share. The dividend is payable on March 15, to shareholders of record as of March 1. Fred’s board also authorized the expansion of the company’s existing stock repurchase program by increasing the authorization to repurchase an additional 3.6M shares or approximately 10% of the currently outstanding shares.

Group 1 Automotive Inc. (NYSE:GPI): Group 1 Automotive announced that its board of directors declared a cash dividend of 14c per share for Q4 of 2011. The dividend, which represents an increase of 7.7%, or $0.01 per share, from Q3 of 2011, will be payable on March 15, to stockholders of record on March 1. Group 1’s board of directors is pleased to reward the company’s shareholders with another dividend increase after reporting all-time record financial results for both the Q4 and full year of 2011,” said Earl J. Hesterberg, Group 1’s president and CEO. “This is the third dividend increase Group 1 has announced in the last year.”

Koppers Holdings Inc. (NYSE:KOP): The Board of Directors of Koppers Holdings has declared a quarterly dividend of 24c per common share, payable April 9, 2012, to stockholders of record as of the close of business on February 28, 2012. The quarterly dividend amount of 24c per share represents a nine percent increase over the previous quarterly dividend rate of $0.22 per share. The company also established a record date for its 2012 annual meeting of stockholders. Koppers stockholders of record at the close of business on March 13, 2012, will be entitled to notice of the annual meeting and to vote upon matters considered at the meeting. The annual meeting will be held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on May 3, 2012.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Capel at staff.writers@wallstcheatsheet.com

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