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Limited Buying Shares, Adding James to Board

NEW YORK — Limited Brands on Monday reported it will repurchase more of its shares and increase its annual dividend.<br><br>Additionally, the Columbus, Ohio-based retail firm reported that it had added Donna James to its board of directors,...

NEW YORK — Limited Brands on Monday reported it will repurchase more of its shares and increase its annual dividend.

Additionally, the Columbus, Ohio-based retail firm reported that it had added Donna James to its board of directors, expanding the group to 14.

The moves come just days after Limited’s stock reached a new 52-week low of $12.11 a share on Friday, 54.2 percent of its 52-week high of $22.34. In New York Stock Exchange trading Monday, shares closed up 7 cents, or 0.6 percent, at $12.66.

Limited said the board had authorized the repurchase of $150 million worth of its outstanding shares. Since 1996, Limited has retired more than 300 million shares worth almost $6 billion.

“I believe that the economic environment is going to remain challenging, and we are focused on maintaining our powerful financial position and disciplined management of the business,” said chief executive officer Leslie Wexner in a statement. “This means maintaining the strength and flexibility of our capital structure. I believe these steps allow us to efficiently return capital back to our shareholders and continue to grow the business.”

Limited said it may repurchase shares from time to time in the open market or through privately negotiated transactions, depending on prevailing market conditions. As of Nov. 29, 2002, the company had 523.1 million shares outstanding.

The firm also said it will increase its common stock annual cash dividend by 33 percent to 40 cents a share from 30 cents.

James is executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Nationwide, a $113 billion Fortune 500 insurance and financial services company.

In related news, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services on Monday said Limited’s announcement has no effect on the company’s credit rating or outlook, which is “BBB+/Stable/A-2.” In a statement, S&P said, “Limited Brands maintains good liquidity with about $1.2 billion in cash, pro forma for the debt offering in November 2002, and generates healthy levels of free cash flow.”