IT information group Experian yesterday launched a $300m share buy-back programme and hiked its dividend in order to return cash to shareholders, after the group pointed to a modest recovery in its operating environment.
Experian, best known for running consumer checks for banks, said pre-tax profit soared eight per cent over the past year to $910m, boosted by a 34 per cent jump in Latin American earnings. North America, which accounts for over 60 per cent of group profits, saw almost flat profit and earnings growth, though Experian said bad debt levels are beginning to fall and lenders are starting to solicit new customers.
The cash-rich group raised its full-year dividend by 15 per cent to $0.23 per share, while the buy-back programme could total $350m including purchases to satisfy employee incentive plans. Experian said an 11 per cent jump in free cash flow and a drop in its debt burden kept it within its target gearing range and paved the way for the long-awaited buyback.
Chief executive Don Robert said the group’s key markets have seen a “gradual recovery”, but remained cautious, adding: “We don’t want to get too carried away at the first signs of stabilisation and recovery.”