WellPoint Board Votes to Increase Share Repurchase Program by $5 Billion

WellPoint Inc. (WLP) said its board voted to boost the insurer’s share repurchase plan by $5 billion.

WellPoint, the largest U.S. health insurer by enrollment, will use the authorization over several years as market and industry conditions dictate, the Indianapolis-based company said today in a regulatory filing. The new amount represents 21 percent of the company’s market capitalization.

The company bought 20.8 million shares in the first six months of this year for about $1.5 billion of a $1.6 billion repurchase program announced in February. As of June 30, the remaining authorization totaled $667.2 million, Kristin Binns, a WellPoint spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

Investors criticized the insurer in 2010 for using its money to buy back stock instead of paying dividends. Along with the share repurchase plan announced in February, WellPoint said it would pay its first dividend of 25 cents a quarter beginning in March.

WellPoint declined 9 cents to $65.28 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have declined 15 percent this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Pat Wechsler in New York at pwechsler@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net.

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