McDonald's

(MCD) - Get Report

said before the bell Wednesday that its board of directors has approved a nearly 50% increase to its annual dividend, raising it from 67 cents to $1 a share.

The dividend will be payable on Dec. 1 to shareholders of record as of Nov. 15.

The company said it expects its cash available for dividends and share repurchases will continue to grow over the next few years.

"We anticipate total shares outstanding at the end of 2006 to decline by about 5% from year-end 2005, including the effect of the Chipotle exchange offer," said McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner. "As a result, we now expect to return at least $10 billion to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases in 2006 through 2008 and intend to continue to reduce shares outstanding."

McDonald's plans to release September sales results on Oct. 12.

Shares were up 44 cents, or 1.1%, at $39.50 in recent pre-market trading Wednesday.