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Amgen raises dividend 30%

Dividend, share buybacks contribute to steep climb in share price
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Amgen has been a constant surprise to investors this year, beating sales expectations last quarter and posting one of the biggest share run-ups of any of the major drug companies this year. But the biotech's new CEO did it again, with the company announcing a whopping 30% increase in its share dividend.

The company said Thursday that it would pay investors a 47 cents per share dividend on March 7, 11 cents per share more than it currently pays and 7 cents more than Bloomberg said analysts had expected. Amgen ($AMGN) in July 2011 became the first biotech to pay a dividend to shareholders, the news service points out.

The company also said it will buy back another $2 billion in shares, further boosting the value of those held by investors. It will continue that program with about $500 million left of the $10 billion it committed to that effort, Bloomberg said.

Earlier this week, the biotech agreed to pay $415 million to buy Icelandic company deCODE Genetics, but the deal has some watchers wondering what Amgen's new CEO is really thinking here. A couple of venture funds bought out of bankruptcy the struggling Icelandic biotech, which had been working on the genetic triggers of disease. But deCODE's work does not clearly sync with Amgen's pipeline, raising some questions about where Robert Bradway, who became CEO in May, is headed with this prize.

But Bradway is credited with doing a good job of managing the decline of Amgen's key anemia drugs and the financial strategies have served its shareholders well. Amgen's shares are up from $57.62 a year ago to about $90 today, more than a 55% gain. The company is making strides with its drug pipeline, even as some of its current drugs have outperformed expectations. Amgen published some positive data this year showing that its drug for lowering bad cholesterol reduced LDL  as much as 63% as it competes to find a successor to Pfizer's ($PFE) Lipitor.

- read the Bloomberg story

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