Walt Disney Co., owner of the namesake theme parks and ESPN sports network, increased its annual dividend by 50 percent, the most in at least 20 years, following record sales and profit.

The new 60-cent dividend, up from 40 cents, will be paid on Jan. 18 to shareholders of record as of Dec. 16, the Burbank, California-based company said yesterday in a statement.

Disney, also owner of the ABC TV network, is returning cash to investors through stock repurchases as well. The company bought back $5 billion of shares in the year ended Oct. 1, according to a Nov. 10 statement. Disney last increased its dividend one year ago, boosting the payment to the current 40 cents from 35 cents. Bloomberg historical data going back to 1990 don't show an increase this large.

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