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Microsoft issues first-ever dividend

Seattle, March 7 (AP): Microsoft Corp is issuing its first dividend today, shelling out more than $ 850 million to shareholders, from the smallest investor right up to co-founder Bill Gates.

At 8 cents a share, the annual payout won’t be huge to the average investor, analysts said. But it still marks a significant change for the software company that went public in 1986 and has long hoarded its cash — now $ 43.4 billion — for research, acquisitions and legal claims.

Of course, there are the not-so-average investors.

Gates, who directly owns more than 1.2 billion shares of stock in the company he helped found in 1975, will receive a dividend of about $ 96.5 million. Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer will receive about $ 37.7 million.

Another 27 executive officers and directors will receive a total of about $ 9.5 million, based on shares reported in the company’s proxy statement.

Microsoft announced the dividend in January, and issued a two-for-one stock split in February. The company has about 10.7 billion shares outstanding.

When announcing the dividend, chief financial officer John Connors noted that Microsoft was the only company of the 30 in the Dow Jones Industrial average not to issue a dividend. With many of Microsoft’s legal troubles nearing conclusion, Connors said the company felt it could afford the dividend.

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