Hershey Delivers Biggest Dividend Hike Since 2007

The Hershey Company (HSY) declared a quarterly dividend of $0.345 per share today, a 7.8% improvement over the $0.32 paid each of the last four quarters. The company also delivered fourth quarter results that met Wall Street’s expectations, along with solid 2011 guidance, sending shares up in early trading.

Hershey posted adjusted fourth quarter earnings of $0.61 per share on $1.48 billion in revenue, matching the consensus analyst estimate in each case.

The candy giant sees 2011 being a strong year, expecting growth near the top of its stated long-term goals. Hershey targets 6-8% annual EPS growth and 3-5% annual sales growth. Analysts currently expect earnings of $2.77 per share (8.6% growth) and $5.89 billion in sales (3.9% growth) in 2011.

Shares of HSY rose to $48.36 (+2.59%) in early trading, where they now carry a 2.85% dividend yield.

The 7.8% dividend increase announced today is the largest for HSY shareholders since they received a 10.2% boost in 2007.

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