Commentary: Annual Dividends? Let The Shareholders Decide

Harry M.J. Kraemer Jr., chairman and chief executive of Baxter International Inc., was bracing to get an earful from shareholders. Every Apr. 1 for more than 40 years, the medical-products company had mailed quarterly dividend checks to its shareholders. No more. Joining a growing roster of companies that includes Walt Disney Co. and McDonald's Corp., Baxter tossed tradition out the window early this year and switched to an annual payment schedule. Kraemer hasn't soothed all of the unhappy shareholders, but he believes they will be calmed by the savings--which are expected to exceed $1.5 million a year. "I would be very surprised if a majority of companies did not move to an annual dividend within four or five years," he predicts.

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