Signet Banking Corp. declared a 2-for-1 stock split yesterday.
Stockholders will receive one additional share of Signet stock for each share they own. The shares are payable July 27 to shareholders of record July 6 and is intended to make the Richmond, Va.-based company's shares less expensive to buy.
Since the depth of the company's real estate-related troubles two years ago, Signet's stock has climbed steadily.
Hitting a low of about $15 a share in late 1991, not long after the company cut its annual dividend in half, to 80 cents, the stock rebounded to the mid-$30s a year ago and now trades in the mid-$50s after having risen to $61 a share in April.
Stocks of the entire banking industry have fallen back since then, as investors became wary of a possible rise in interest rates, which could depress banks' profits.
Signet's stock closed yesterday at $55.75 a share, up 12.5 cents, in trading on the New York Stock Exchange -- a day most bank stocks, and the market as a whole, took a beating.
The announcement of a split came two months after Signet increased its annual common stock dividend by 33 percent, to $1.60 a share, its high point before the cut in 1991. That dividend will be reduced to 80 cents a share, as the number of shares doubles to about 56.2 million on July 27.
"The action is expected to enhance the liquidity and broaden the distribution of our shares," Robert M. Freeman, Signet's chairman and chief executive said in a statement.
"The split should make Signet stock more accessible to smaller investors and encourage individual ownership."
Signet has about $11.5 billion in assets and banking subsidiaries in Virginia, the District of Columbia and Maryland.