Dividend Hikes: UnitedHealth

UnitedHealth Group increased its cash dividend and will move to a quarterly dividend payment cycle.
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(Deere dividend increase added to this update.)

NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) --

UnitedHealth Group

(UNH) - Get Report

said Wednesday that it has increased its cash dividend to shareholders and will move to a quarterly dividend payment cycle.

UnitedHealth

said the first quarterly dividend of 12.5 cents per share will be paid on June 21. Most recently, UnitedHealth paid a 3-cent-a-share annual dividend in April. The dividend increase pushes UnitedHealth's dividend yield to approximately 1.7% from a mere 0.1% previously.

"We are increasing the size and frequency of our dividends, while continuing an effective share repurchase program, making sound investments in growth and maintaining a strong balance sheet and financial flexibility," said UnitedHealth CEO Stephen Hemsley said in a statement.

Shares of UnitedHealth Group were lately up 57 cents, or 2%, to $29.44. Still, the stock is down more than 3% in 2010.

Meanwhile,

Deere

(DE) - Get Report

said its board of directors has approved an increase in its quarterly dividend to 30 cents from 28 cents.

A week ago,

Deere

posted a second-quarter adjusted profit of $1.58 a share on revenue of $7.13 billion, compared with the Thomson Reuters average estimate for earnings of $1.09 a share on revenue of $6.62 billion.

Deere also offered better-than-expected revenue guidance for the fiscal third quarter and full year.

Deere

shares were up 1.7% to $56.85 following the dividend announcement.

In other dividend news,

Transocean

(RIG) - Get Report

responded late Tuesday to what the company called "erroneous reports relating to its shareholders' approval of a dividend" and its intent to avoid liability arising from the Deepwater Horizon incident, which continues to spill oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Transocean

said the dividend proposal, which was announced on Feb. 16 and described in the preliminary proxy statement which was filed with the

Securities and Exchange Commission

on March 1, will not prevent the company from meeting its legal obligations.

On May 14, Transocean shareholders at the company's annual meeting authorized the cash distribution of 3.44 Swiss francs, or about $3.11, per share to be paid in four quarterly installments. Based on total issued shares, the distribution totals $1 billion, Transocean said in a release following the meeting.

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"Transocean will honor all of its legal obligations arising from the Deepwater Horizon accident," Transocean said in a statement Tuesday. "The payment of this dividend will not impact the company's ability to meet its legal obligations relating to the Deepwater Horizon accident."

BP

(BP) - Get Report

said Wednesday it is testing to determine if the so-called top kill procedure to plug the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico can be successfully executed. "This top kill procedure has not been carried out offshore at 5,000 feet water depth before, and its success cannot be assured," BP said in a statement.

BP

said it expects the procedure could take up to two days, and it can't predict how long it will take to determine if the operation was successful

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-- Written by Robert Holmes in Boston

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