Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Thursday that it is increasing its annual dividend 21 percent on the back of strong earnings.
The world's largest retailer last month reported a 27 percent increase in fourth-quarter net income as it benefited from cost-cutting and strong sales overseas.
But a key revenue measure in the company's U.S. business fell for the seventh quarter in a row and came in below Wal-Mart's own projection, raising doubts the retailer can turn around its U.S. business this year.
Wal-Mart said it will pay an annual dividend this year of $1.46, up from $1.21. It will pay quarterly dividends of 36.5 cents in April, June, September and January in fiscal 2012, which ends Jan. 31.
The next dividend will be paid on April 4 to shareholders of record on March 11.
President and CEO Mike Duke said in a statement the company was able to boost its dividend because of its earnings performance in fiscal 2011 and its strong financial position.
The company raised its annual dividend by 11 percent a year ago. Wal-Mart has increased its dividend every year since it declared its first one in 1974, and the company said its dividends will return more than $5 billion to shareholders in fiscal 2012.
Wal-Mart runs 8,970 stores in 15 countries, and reported $419 billion in sales in fiscal 2011.