UPDATE 2-Lear to split shares, start buyback and dividend
* Sets 2-for-1 stock split
* Sets quarterly dividend of 25 cts on pre-split basis
* Sets $400 million share buyback
* Shares up 2.1 percent (Updates stock price, adds analyst comment)
DETROIT, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Auto parts supplier Lear Corp (LEA.N) said on Thursday that it would split its stock 2-for-1, begin a $400 million share buyback program and start paying a quarterly dividend, steps that show its progress in shoring up its balance sheet after a 2009 bankruptcy.
The supplier of auto seating and electrical systems said it would pay a quarterly dividend of 25 cents per share on a pre-split basis.
Lear, which emerged from bankruptcy in November 2009, has benefited from a reduction in costs and production capacity and a rebound in global auto production over the past 18 months.
Shares of Lear were up 2.1 percent at $113.50 in morning trading. The stock has gained more than 60 percent since May 2010.
Based on its shares outstanding before the split, the new quarterly dividend will cost Lear almost $53 million annually.
The share buyback program runs until February 2014.
One analyst said the moves by Lear would help improve both investor interest and liquidity in the stock, which crossed the $100-per-share threshold earlier this month.
"We view this announcement favorably and are encouraged to see (Lear) return cash to shareholders in the form of both dividends and share repurchase," KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Brett Hoselton said in a note for clients.
"Additionally, we view the stock split positively as it increases liquidity in the stock," he said.
JPMorgan analyst Himanshu Patel said the share buyback and dividend were conservative, given Lear's $1.7 billion cash balance at the end of 2010.
"This implies the Board is still taking a fairly conservative posture, and that management is looking to make a few small acquisitions," Patel said in a note. (Reporting by Kevin Krolicki, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)
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