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CenturyTel Hikes Dividend

The company also sets a $1 billion buyback.
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boosted its quarterly dividend and said its board approved a stock repurchase program covering up to $1 billion of its shares.

The Louisiana-based provider of phone and Internet services said it canceled the remaining $13 million balance of a previous buyback. Meanwhile, the new dividend of 6.25 cents a share represents a 4.2% increase from the prior rate of 6 cents. The dividend is payable on March 17 to shareholders of record March 6.

CenturyTel plans to buy the first $500 million of its common stock through accelerated share repurchase agreements with investment banks. The company can buy the rest of the shares in the open market, in privately negotiated transactions or through another ASR program.

At current prices, CenturyTel could buy back about 22% of its stock. Shares of CenturyTel were gaining $1.07, or 3.1%, to $35.90.