UPDATE 2-Exxon boosts dividend 21 pct, Chevron's up 11 pct

Wed Apr 25, 2012 5:09pm EDT

By Ernest Scheyder and Braden Reddall

April 25 (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp, the world's largest publicly traded oil company, raised its quarterly dividend by 21 percent on We dnesday, bowing to sustained pressure from investors and Wall Street analysts.

Chevron Corp, its nearest U.S. rival, announced late o n Wednesday that its quarterly dividend would rise another 9 cents per share, matching its ultimate increase last year that it pushed through in two stages.

Exxon raised its quarterly payout to 57 cents from 47 cents. The dividend will be payable on June 11 to shareholders of record as of May 14.

Exxon shares rose 0.4 percent after the announcement, and closed 0.6 percent higher at $86.85, having traded between $67.03 and $88.03 in the past 52 weeks.

The company, which had $12.66 billion in cash at the end of last year, was under pressure from Wall Street and shareholders to match the payout of Chevron, which has a market capitalization about half that of Exxon.

The 21 percent rise was larger than the 10 percent to 15 percent many analysts had expected.

Exxon, based in Irving, Texas, has historically favored share buybacks over dividend increases as a way to increase returns, spending $20 billion on share repurchases last year and $9 billion on dividends.

Chief Executive Rex Tillerson told analysts at the New York Stock Exchange last month that Exxon would seriously evaluate raising its dividend after it completed buying back shares issued for its $41 billion all-stock purchase of XTO Energy Inc in 2010.

The XTO stock repurchase was expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter, according to a transcript of the meeting.

"We are mindful of our competitiveness in the dividend area," Tillerson said at the NYSE. "We know we are on the low end of yield, certainly within our sector."

Exxon's annual dividend yield is now 2.6 percent, while Chevron's 11 percent increase brought its quarterly payout to 90 cents per share, for an annual yield of 3.5 percent based on its closing share price of $103.85.

Chevron CEO John Watson said in a statement to accompany its increased dividend, payable on June 11 to shareholders of record as of May 18, that it reflected confidence in the company's growth prospects, and marked 100 years of continuous dividend payments.

Chevron has increased its annual dividend for 25 straight years, the company added.

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