Covington-based Ashland announced late Wednesday that its board plans to increase its annual dividend to 70 cents per share from 60 cents per share, beginning with the June 15 payment. The board also approved the repurchase of up to $400 million in stock. At the end of last year, there were 79 million shares of Ashland common stock outstanding.
The company also announced that Chairman and CEO James J. O'Brien plans to undergo surgery to repair a perforated colon resulting from diverticulitis. He is expected to return to full duties in two to three months. During his recovery, his chairman duties will be assumed by Barry W. Perry, lead independent director of the board, while his CEO duties will be split between Chief Financial Officer Lamar M. Chambers and General Counsel David L. Hausrath.