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Special dividend

A special dividend is a payment made by a company to its shareholders that the company declares to be separate from the typical recurring dividend cycle, if any, for the company. Usually when a company raises its normal dividend, the investor expectation is that this marks a sustained increase. In the case of a special dividend, however, the company is signalling that this is a one-off payment. Therefore, special dividends do not markedly affect valuation or yield calculations. Typically, special dividends are distributed if a company has exceptionally strong earnings that it wishes to distribute to shareholders or if it is making changes to its financial structure, such as debt ratio.

A prominent example of a special dividend was the $3 dividend announced by Microsoft in 2004 to partially relieve its balance sheet of a large cash balance. A more recent example of a special dividend is the $1 dividend announced by SAIC (U.S. company) in 2013, just prior to it splitting off its solutions business into a new company named Leidos.