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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