MasterCard doubles dividend, sets $2 billion share buyback

, Bloomberg

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MasterCard Inc., the second-biggest U.S. payments network, doubled its quarterly dividend to 60 cents a share and approved a stock-repurchase program of as much as $2 billion.

"Our strong financial performance allows us to increase the return of cash to shareholders," chief executive officer Ajay Banga said Tuesday in a statement. "We remain focused on executing our strategy and growing our business."

MasterCard posted fourth-quarter profit last week that beat analysts' estimates as customers made more purchases. Banga, 53, is fending off competitors Visa Inc. and Shanghai-based China UnionPay as the company seeks a larger share of the electronic payments-processing market. Banga is targeting developing countries for growth amid a consumer shift from cash to plastic.

MasterCard shares gained 4.7 percent this year through Monday.

The company will pay the dividend on May 9 to holders of record of its Class A and Class B common stock as of April 9, according to the statement.

This is the second time that the MasterCard board has doubled the firm's dividend in the past year. Shareholders received a 15-cent quarterly payout between 2007 and last February, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The previous dividend was 9 cents a quarter, the data show.

Buyback Plan

Visa, the biggest payments network, boosted its quarterly dividend to 33 cents from 22 cents in December, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Foster City, California-based company had increased the payout from 15 cents the previous year.

MasterCard's board authorized the firm to repurchase as much as $2 billion of Class A stock, according to the statement. The share repurchase program will begin once MasterCard completes its current $1.5 billion plan, which had about $440 million remaining as of Jan. 25, the company said.

MasterCard increased 2012 profit by 15 percent to $2.8 billion compared with a year earlier. Shares jumped 32 percent for the year, more than doubling the 13 percent gain posted by the 70-company Standard & Poor's 500 Information Technology Index.

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