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Cendant Backs Targets, Plans Dividend

The company expects to start paying out 7 cents a share in the first quarter of 2004.

Travel and real-estate services provider



reaffirmed its financial targets and said it plans to start paying a common stock dividend in the first quarter of 2004.

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The plan approved by Cendant's board calls for an initial quarterly dividend of 7 cents a share, or 28 cents annually. The actual declaration of dividends, and the establishment of record and payment dates, requires final determination by the board.

In a press release Monday, the company said it expects to generate net cash from operating activities of more than $2 billion a year and free cash flow of around $2 billion or more each year for the foreseeable future.

"It is appropriate to return value to our shareholders both through our current common equity repurchase program and, now additionally, through the payment of a dividend," the company said.

The company also said it remains determined to continue with its debt reduction program, targeting about $1 billion a year. The rest of Cendant's free cash flow will be used mainly for common stock buybacks and cash dividends and, secondarily, for small acquisitions or incremental debt reduction.

Additionally, Cendant said it expects to meet or exceed its previously announced second-quarter earnings forecast of 35 cents a share. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call are looking for a profit of 35 cents on revenue of $4.5 billion.