Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) announced today it was increasing its annual cash dividend for fiscal year 2014 by 18% to $1.88 per share to be paid in four quarterly installments of $0.47 per share each. The company says this is one of the largest dividend increases in its history and that it has increased its dividend every year since it first declared a dividend (of $0.05) in 1974.

"Our global businesses consistently generate strong free cash flow, providing ample opportunities to fund growth across all our markets and to deliver strong returns to shareholders," President and CEO Mike Duke was quoted by the company as saying.

Last year, Wal-Mart returned $13 billion to shareholders in the form of dividends and stock repurchases. The dividend will rise from the $1.59 per share it paid in fiscal year 2013, an increase of $0.29 per share. The payable dates are April 1, June 3, and Sept. 3, this year and Jan. 2, 2014.

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