LONDON -- It's been an erratic week for FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES:^FTSE). It fell a whopping 189 points yesterday after the U.S. Federal Reserve indicated that its economic-stimulus policies are likely to be scaled back later this year. Today the index of top U.K. shares is back up 24 points, or 0.38%, to 6,183. But dividends make a nice hedge against share price volatility, and the FTSE 100 offers an average forecast yield of 3.3%.
Rising dividends are even better. Let's take a look at three companies that have lifted their annual payouts this week.
Micro Focus (LSE:MCRO)
Micro Focus International, the business-software specialist, released an impressive set of annual results on Wednesday, with pre-tax profit at constant currency up 5.1% to $153.4 million. That fed through to a bottom-line adjusted diluted earnings-per-share gain of 20% to $0.86.
The firm was able to lift its final dividend by 20% to $0.28 per share, completing an overall 27% rise in the total dividend for the year to $0.40 per share. Based on today's share price of 715 pence, that's a yield of 3.6% -- and it was more than twice-covered by earnings.
Berkeley Group (LSE:BKG)
We also had full-year results from property developer Berkeley Group Holdings on Wednesday, and again they led to a strong dividend boost. Revenue for the year was up 31%, with pre-tax profit gaining 26% to £270 million and diluted EPS up an impressive 24% to 140 pence.
The net result for income seekers was a final dividend of 59 pence per share on top of a first-half dividend of 15 pence. With the shares at 2,135 pence, the total payment for the year of 74 pence amounts to a yield of 3.5% -- and it would have been a higher yield if the share price hadn't soared by 60% this year.
Thursday brought us a full-year dividend boost from Ashtead Group, the industrial-equipment rental firm whose share price has soared 20-fold since a 2009 low of 33 pence to 661 pence today.
This year, the firm reported a 19% rise in revenue from which it extracted an impressive 87% rise in underlying pre-tax profit to £246.7 million and underlying EPS of 31.6 pence per share, up 80%. And the dividend? A final payment of 6 pence per share makes a full-year total of 7.5 pence, more than double last year's 3.5 pence per share.
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Alan Oscroft has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Berkeley Group Holdings and Micro Focus International. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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