Disney

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chief Michael Eisner said Friday that the media conglomerate was leaning toward a dividend increase.

In a comment at the Allen & Co. media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, Eisner expressed "confidence in the strength of the company's balance sheet." Disney said in a press release that management would "likely recommend to the board an increase in the company's dividend."

Disney, which pays dividends at a 21-cent annual rate, saw its shares rise a penny Friday to $24.38.

The news comes on the heels of an eventful spring at the Burbank, Calif., company. In response to the demands of restive shareholders, the Disney board in March stripped Eisner of his chairman's post. Meanwhile, the company managed to fend off an unsolicited bid by cable giant

Comcast

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, in part by strengthening its corporate governance measures and in part by promising improving performance in coming quarters.

The latest furor at Disney stems from the company's decision to distance itself from the Michael Moore documentary

Fahrenheit 911

. The movie has become a surprise hit amid controversy about its criticism of the Bush administration. Speculation in the press has centered on whether Disney's handling of the matter opened a rift between the company and the top executives at its Miramax pictures unit.