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boosted its quarterly dividend by 5 cents to 73 cents Tuesday, a widely anticipated action that takes the yield over its common stock to 6%.

The 20-cent increase to Altria's old $2.72 annual dividend will send about $410 million more out the door to shareholders every year and brings the company's annual dividend obligation to roughly $6 billion. The tobacco giant did about $9.2 billion in free cash flow in the most recent 12 months.

Altria is expected to earn $4.73 a share in the year to December 2004 and $5.16 in 2005. At $48.53, the stock fetches 10.2 times this year's estimate and 9.4 times next year's.

The first 73-cent dividend will be paid Oct. 12.

On Tuesday, Altria's publicly traded subsidiary



raised its quarterly dividend to 20.5 cents from 18 cents.