Transocean plans to restart dividend after Icahn's push

March 4 Mon Mar 4, 2013 6:44am EST

March 4 (Reuters) - Transocean Ltd , the world's largest offshore drilling contractor, said its board recommended restarting dividend payments, more than a month after activist investor Carl Icahn pushed for a payout.

The board has recommended that shareholders approve $2.24 per share dividend at the annual general meeting on May 17. The total payout would be about $800 million, the company said. It plans to pay the dividend on a quarterly basis starting June.

Top shareholder Icahn, who now owns 5.6 percent of Transocean shares, pushed for nearly double of the recommended dividend. He asked for at least $4 per share in January.

After paying a dividend in 2011, its first in nine years, Transocean last year abandoned payouts that totaled $3.16 per share annually, to maintain a strong balance sheet and investment-grade rating on its debt.

The company has struggled with ballooning costs over the past few years as it sought to get its ageing fleet into shape under stricter regulations that followed BP's 2010 Macondo oil spill, which destroyed a Transocean rig and killed 11 people.

Transocean reached a $1.4 billion settlement with the U.S. government on Jan. 3 over its liability in the Macondo disaster. Ten days later, Icahn declared his initial stake of about 1.56 percent.

Switzerland-based Transocean, which has a long-term debt of over $11 billion, plans to accelerate repayment with an objective of retiring $1 billion of debt by the end of 2014.

Transocean reported on Friday a rise in revenue and higher-than-expected profit for the quarter ended Dec. 31 as more of its fleet was working compared with a year ago.

The company's shares were up 3.7 percent at 50.40 Swiss francs on the SIX Swiss Exchange on Monday.