U.S. shale producer Cabot Oil boosts dividend by 20 percent

HOUSTON, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Cabot Oil & Gas Corp said on Wednesday it would increase its quarterly dividend by 20 percent, part of the shale producer’s push to focus less on output and more on shareholder returns.

The Houston-based company raised its dividend to 6 cents, payable on Feb. 7 to shareholders of record as of Jan. 24. It was the second dividend increase in as many years for Cabot.

Cabot has helped push the U.S. shale industry in recent years to focus more on returns and less on boosting production, regardless of costs.

Dan Dinges, Cabot’s chief executive, said the increase was due to the company’s “strong balance sheet and our ability to deliver double-digit growth” from its core Marcellus Shale operations.

Cabot last month said it would sell its Eagle Ford Shale assets in Texas for $765 million, part of a push to curb costs.

Shares of Cabot have gained 28 percent in the past year, compared to a 19 percent gain in the S&P 500. (Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by James Dalgleish)