McCormick boosts dividend amid strong sales, earnings

November 21, 2001|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

McCormick & Co. Inc.'s board of directors approved an increase in the quarterly dividend yesterday from 20 cents to 21 cents a share, citing a successful year in which the company's stock price rose by more than 50 percent.

The 5 percent increase will be payable Jan. 22 to shareholders of record as of Dec. 31.

"As a result of our success in 2001 and our confidence in the future of McCormick, we are pleased to announce an increase in the quarterly dividend," Robert J. Lawless, chairman, president and chief executive, said in a prepared statement. "We have consistently paid dividends since 1925, and we believe they represent an important component of total shareholder return."

Early last month, the company posted third-quarter profit that was nearly 10 percent higher than a year earlier due to cost-saving initiatives and a focus on selling higher-margin products. Earnings per share were in line with analysts' expectations at 49 cents versus 45 cents in the year-earlier period.

McCormick has been able to sell more high-margin products largely because of its acquisition of Ducros, Europe's largest spice producer, in August 2000. The addition of the Parisian company widened McCormick's consumer line, which has higher margins. Also, McCormick has been saving costs company wide with initiatives such as reducing its number of suppliers and using the resulting leverage to pay lower prices.

"We continue to grow our business profitably around the world through new products, new markets and effective marketing programs," Lawless said.

"Our many programs to improve margins and help fuel growth, including our major process and system improvement program, Beyond 2000, are proceeding well. We believe our strategies will result in continued success and outstanding returns for our shareholders."

Shares of McCormick rose 30 cents yesterday on the New York Stock Exchange to close at $42.60.

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