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Family Dollar boosts quarterly dividend

MATTHEWS, S.C. (AP) -- Family Dollar Stores Inc. boosted its regular quarterly dividend by 24 percent and approved a big new stock repurchase program, the company said Thursday.

The actions allow management to return company profits to investors, a common move for firms that see few opportunities to invest their extra cash profitably.

Family Dollar's new regular quarterly dividend payout will be 26 cents per share, up from 21 cents per share. The change will be effective next time the company declares a quarterly dividend. Family Dollar moved up the payment of its most recent quarterly dividend to December in anticipation of a possible increase in federal tax rates in 2013. The dividend is typically paid in January but the company wanted to take advantage of current low tax rates.

Family Dollar has increased its dividend for 37 years in a row, Chairman and CEO Howard Levine said in a statement. He said this year's increase "reflects our confidence in the company's long-term growth potential."

In addition, the company's board authorized its management to purchase an additional $300 million of common stock through an existing share repurchase program, bringing the total available for buybacks to $394 million. The repurchases will be funded with cash from operations.

When companies buy back shares, the value of the outstanding shares increases. Each remaining share represents a larger slice of the company's profits.

During its first fiscal quarter, ended Nov. 24, Family Dollar purchased 400,000 shares for $25 million.

Family Dollar operates more than 7,500 stores in 45 states. Shares fell 31 cents to $58.04 Thursday. It rose 6 cents to $58.10 in after-hours trading.