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Sirius issuing special dividend, repurchase shares

NEW YORK (AP) -- Sirius XM Radio Inc. announced Thursday that it will issue a special dividend that will be paid before the end of the year and has plans to buy back up to $2 billion of its shares.

The radio broadcast company says its special dividend of 5 cents per common share is payable on Dec. 28 to shareholders of record as of Dec. 18. The total amount of the cash dividend is expected to be approximately $325 million.

Sirius said its repurchase program will take place in both the open market and in privately negotiated transactions. Liberty Media Corporation, which owns nearly half of the company's stock, will participate in the repurchases on a pro-rata basis so that its relative ownership interest will not be affected.

The company said the plans reflect its desire to return value to shareholders and confidence in its long-term growth prospects.

Sirius is the latest company to move up its quarterly payout or issue a special end-of-year payment to protect investors from potentially having to pay higher taxes on dividend income starting in January.

Since 2003 investors have paid a maximum 15 percent on dividend income. But that historically low rate will expire in January unless Congress and President Barack Obama reach a compromise on taxes and government spending. As it stands, dividends will be taxed as ordinary income in 2013, the same as wages, so rates will go up depending on which income bracket a taxpayer is in. For the highest earners, the dividend rate would jump to 43.4 percent.

Shares of the company gained 5 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $2.81 by midday Thursday. They are near the high end of their 52-week range of $1.70 to $2.97.