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LONDON -- Smith & Nephew (LSE: SN.L ) pleased the market today by announcing a 50% increase to the interim dividend and a new progressive dividend policy that could significantly improve the shares' currently unimpressive 2% dividend yield.
Compared to other big names in the health-care sector, like FTSE 100 stalwarts GlaxoSmithKline (LSE: GSK.L ) and AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN.L ) , which boast yields of 4.6% and 3.8%, respectively, Smith & Nephew is downright disappointing if you're an income investor.
However, one year into new CEO Olivier Bohuon's restructuring plan, the company's margins are showing improvement, which is translating to stronger cash flow; free cash flow (cash from operations less spending on capital) was up 26% in the quarter. This, along with the 66 million pounds in cash from the sale of a 51% stake in the company's experimental biologics business, helped pay down 133 million pounds in debt in the quarter and provided the company with a net cash balance of 96 million pounds.
Bohuon had previously said excess cash would be aimed at acquisitions to complement the company's newly focused research efforts, but the Board has apparently heard the appeals from shareholders for some sharing of the wealth.
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