Chico’s FAS Inc. has authorized $300 million in new stock repurchases after spending $125 million in buybacks during the fourth quarter.

 

The Fort Myers, Fla.-based specialty chain said that fourth-quarter buyback expenditures have consumed all but $55 million of its previous authorization. During the quarter, it repurchased 6.7 million shares, putting the average price per share at $18.66. Shares closed Wednesday at $18.64 and were up 11 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $18.75 as trading got underway Thursday. Their 52-week range is $15.27, on Aug. 27, to $19.95, reached May 22.

 

The company on Nov. 26 increased its annual stock dividend 36 percent to 30 cents as it reported a $28.5 million loss for the third quarter ended Nov. 2 on a 3 percent increase in sales, to $$655.6 million, and a 1.4 percent decline in comparable sales.

 

“We’re pleased that we will have distributed approximately $283 million in cash to shareholders during fiscal 2013, reflecting meaningful year-to-date share repurchases and the increased December 2013 dividend declaration,” said Dave Dyer, chief executive officer of Chico’s. “Since the inception of our share repurchase and dividend programs in 2010, we will have distributed approximately $690 million to our shareholders. Both the new authorization and the recent dividend increase underscore the company’s commitment to returning excess cash to shareholders.”

 

Chico’s had $52.5 million in cash and cash equivalents on its balance sheet as of Nov. 2 in addition to $197.2 million in marketable securities.

 

The company operates the Chico’s, White House|Black Market, Som Intimates and Boston Proper nameplates.