Ireland's Smurfit eyes acquisitions, hikes dividend
* Looking for acquisitions in Americas, eastern Europe
* Raises dividend 50 pct, considers returning more cash
DUBLIN, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Irish packaging group Smurfit
Kappa is looking for acquisitions in the Americas and
eastern Europe and will return cash to shareholders if it
doesn't find the right target, it said on Wednesday.
Smurfit, which designs and manufactures paper-based
packaging for the likes of Unilever and Procter &
Gamble, raised its dividend by 50 percent to 30.75 cents
a share after posting a jump in fourth-quarter results.
Its shares rose 4.7 percent to 18.95 euros by 0817 GMT,
supported by the higher payout to investors.
"Our focus is on doing M&A (mergers and acquisitions),"
Chief Financial Officer Ian Curley told reporters. "If we don't
find any to do, we will return capital to shareholders."
Smurfit, whose pretax profit rose 91 percent to 62 million
euros ($85 million) in the fourth quarter, is looking at
purchases in the high growth areas of the Americas and eastern
Europe in particular, it said in a statement.
The company brought down its net debt by 6 percent in 2013
to 2.6 billion euros, which boosts its available cash.
"For a long time, the company used its strong cash
generation to pay down debt. Now that the balance sheet has been
repaired, shareholders should really start to get the benefit of
the cash," said Barry Dixon of Davy Research.
($1 = 0.7312 euros)
(Reporting by Sam Cage; Editing by Mark Potter)