Exxon is raising its quarterly dividend by 21 percent. In doing so, it becomes the top corporate dividend payer, surpassing AT&T.
The Irving, Texas, oil giant raised the payout to 57 cents from 47 cents in the first quarter. That brings its annual dividend to $2.28 per share. The increase is the largest of any quarter-on-quarter rise since the current dividend practice began in 1975.
Exxon Mobil Corp. will now pay its shareholders $10.75 billion in dividends per year, according to Standard & Poor's, up from $9 billion. AT&T Inc. is second at $10.44 billion. Apple Inc., which restored its dividend in March, is next at $9.88 billion.
The move raises the company's dividend yield to 2.6 percent. The yield measures annual payouts to shareholders against a company's stock price. By comparison, Apple's dividend yield is 1.8 percent. AT&T's is a hefty 5.5 percent.
Rival oil major Chevron Corp. raised its quarterly dividend on Wednesday as well, by 11.1 percent to 90 cents a share. It's payable June 11 to shareholders of record as of May 18.
The moves by Exxon and Chevron are the latest in a string of dividend increases by major companies. IBM said on Tuesday that it was raising its quarterly dividend by 13 percent, and DuPont on Wednesday increased its payout by 5 percent.
The dividend payout rate among stocks in the Standard & Poor's 500 index reached a record level last month after several banks increased their dividends. The previous record was set in June 2008. And some three-quarters of the S&P 500's dividend-paying companies are making higher payouts than they did last year, according to S&P.
Exxon will report first-quarter financial results on Thursday. Analysts expect relatively flat earnings growth from the company this year following a plunge in natural gas prices. Exxon is expected to earn $2.10 per share in the first quarter, according to FactSet, compared with $2.14 per share in the same period last year.
Exxon Mobil shares rose 54 cents to close at $86.85.