Carnival plans $1 billion stock repurchase
Carnival Corporation & plc (NYSE: CCL; LSE:) (NYSE: CUK) today announced its capital deployment plan with the company's board of directors authorizing the repurchase of up to an initial $1 billion of Carnival Corporation & plc shares and approving an increase in the quarterly dividend by 20 percent to $0.15 per share.
Carnival says the stock repurchase will commence in 2005 and take place from time to time in open market or privately negotiated transactions. It says the repurchase program reflects the company's continued strong cash flow.
It also comes, says Carnival, "in response to the Standard & Poor's index float adjustment scheduled to be implemented in March and September 2005."
Following the S&P float adjustment companies will be weighted in the S&P Index by reference to the free float and not the total number of shares outstanding and this may result in possible increased sales volume of the company's stock. Carnival believes that during the course of this process attractive purchase opportunities may arise and this authority puts the company in a position to react accordingly.
"We have consistently stated our priorities for capital deployment to maximize return on invested capital -- building new ships to grow our business, maintaining a strong balance sheet and credit rating, and returning excess cash flow to our shareholders -- and we are doing all three of these," said Micky Arison, Carnival Corporation & plc's chairman and CEO.
Just last week Carnival announced that it placed an order with German shipyard Meyer Werft for two AIDA ships for delivery in 2007 and 2009. That followed a five-ship order with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri for deliveries in 2007 and 2008 that was placed in September.
"We are in the unique position of having strong cash flow to fund our growth initiatives internally, as well as free cash flow to return to shareholders without increasing our debt levels," Arison said.
The company's current $7 billion newbuilding program includes 14 new ships scheduled for delivery between November 2004 and spring 2009 - one more in fiscal 2004, three each in 2005 and 2006, four in 2007, two in 2008 and one in 2009.
The stock repurchase plan will apply to both Carnival Corporation common stock traded on the New York Stock Exchange and Carnival plc ordinary shares traded on the London Stock Exchange and repurchases may be made by either Carnival Corporation or Carnival plc. However, under the dual listed company (DLC) equalization agreement, the company would be permitted to repurchase Carnival plc shares only after April 17, 2005, and up to five percent a year for the next three years. These purchase restrictions were agreed at the time of the merger in order to protect Carnival plc shareholder interests. In addition, the repurchase of Carnival plc shares requires Carnival plc shareholder approval and the company intends to seek approval of a general authority to make purchases at the next annual meeting in April of 2005.
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