Kroger Co., the largest U.S. supermarket chain, approved its first stock split in 16 years and a 13.5 percent dividend increase, saying it reflected the board’s confidence in its growth prospects.
In addition to the 2-for-1 split, the supermarket chain will pursue a new $500 million stock buyback program, according to a statement on Thursday. The company has made $11.7 billion in share repurchases since the start of 2000.
In splitting its stock, Kroger is pursuing an increasingly rare strategy. Splits reached their apex in the 1990s when companies sought to broaden their appeal to individuals by having lower-priced stocks. Now that institutional investors and exchange-traded funds dominate the market, there’s less need to take the step.
In Kroger’s case, a desire to make the stock more accessible to its employees figured into the decision. The company employees almost 400,000 associates in thousands of supermarkets. Kroger’s stock price had climbed above $70 in recent months, potentially making it hard for some to afford.
“The stock split will increase the accessibility of our shares and liquidity in the trading of our shares,” Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rodney McMullen said in the statement. “We are especially excited that the stock split will make Kroger’s common shares more accessible to all of our associates.”
The announcement marks the fifth stock split for Cincinnati-based Kroger, which previously did so in 1979, 1986, 1997 and 1999.
The dividend increase, meanwhile, will boost its payout to 21 cents on a pre-split basis. That was in line with the predictions of analysts. Shareholders on record as of Aug. 14 will be paid 10.5 cents -- the split-adjusted amount -- on Sept. 1.