UPDATE 1-Occidental raises buyback, sells some U.S. natgas assets

Thu Feb 13, 2014 5:12pm EST

Feb 13 (Reuters) - Occidental Petroleum Corp said on Thursday its board voted to increase its share repurchase authorization by 30 million shares to be funded in part by the $1.4 billon sale of natural gas assets in the central United States.

Occidental, which is restructuring and under pressure to return more cash to shareholders, also raised its annual dividend by 12.5 percent to $2.88 per share.

"The dividend increase reflects our commitment to growing Occidental's dividend annually, and we will continue to make share repurchases as opportunities arise," Chief Executive Officer Stephen I. Chazen said in a statement.

Occidental's buyback authorization had 7 million shares remaining at the end of 2013.

Occidental plans to sell its 1.4 million acres in the Hugoton field that spans southwestern Kansas and parts of Oklahoma and Colorado. The buyer was not disclosed.

In October, Occidental said it planned to sell a minority stake in its Middle East and North African operations and was also reviewing strategic alternatives for some assets in the U.S. Rocky Mountain region that have lower returns.

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