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Updated Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 08:25 AM

Expedia to pay special dividend

By Drew DeSilver
Seattle Times business reporter

Bellevue-based Expedia on Friday joined the parade of companies declaring year-end special cash dividends, saying it would pay shareholders 52 cents per share on Dec. 28.

The extra payout, which came on the heels of Expedia’s regular quarterly dividend of 13 cents per share, will cost the online travel company about $70.7 million.

The prospect of higher taxes on dividends in 2013, along with piles of cash in corporate treasuries, has prompted many U.S. companies to declare special dividends or move up scheduled quarterly payments.

Besides Expedia, at least a half-dozen companies around the Northwest have announced special dividends in recent weeks, according to Seattle Times research

They range from Costco Wholesale’s gigantic $7-a-share payout, which will cost the Issaquah-based retailer $3 billion, to the 15-cent (or $865,000) dividend declared Tuesday by Portland’s Paulson Capital.

“Given the uncertainty surrounding future dividend-tax rates, we believe this special dividend is in the best interest of our shareholders at this time,” chairman Chester “Chet” Paulson said in a statement announcing the dividend.

Since 2003, most taxpayers have paid a 15 percent income tax on dividends; those in the lowest brackets pay zero.

But unless Congress and the president strike a deal before the end of the year to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff,” dividends will be taxed the same as ordinary income, at rates up to 39.6 percent for the richest taxpayers. Even if there is a deal, higher taxes on dividends, at least for wealthier taxpayers, could be part of it.

Other Northwest companies that recently have declared unusual special dividends include Idaho-based paper and packaging company Boise Inc. ($72.1 million), Portland-based Electro Scientific Industries ($58.7 million), Ambassadors Group of Spokane ($8.8 million), and Home Federal Bancorp of Nampa, Idaho ($1.7 million).

While all shareholders will receive the money, the biggest beneficiaries are those with the biggest holdings.

Barry Diller, Expedia’s chairman and senior executive, directly owns more than 4.6 million shares in the company, making his take from the special dividend about $2.4 million.

Drew DeSilver: 206-464-3145 or ddesilver@seattletimes.com


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