Del Monte Foods, one of the US’s largest manufactures and distributors of branded and private label food and pet products, announced Friday (16th December) that it would be paying out a dividend of US$0.04 per share of common stock.

This is the first dividend declared by the board of directors since the company went public in 1999. The dividend will be paid on 2nd February 2006 to stockholders of record as of the close of business on January 19, 2006.

The bonus payout is in keeping with Del Monte’s cash flow strategy, which endeavours to maintain financial flexibility while providing shareholders with good returns, the company said.

In the 2005 financial year, Del Monte generated a figure in the region of $200m in free cash flow, reduced debt by $70m and purchased approximately 12m shares under its accelerated stock buy-back program.

Del Monte anticipates free cash flow of $190m to $200m for the 2006 fiscal year, alongside a total annual dividend of $0.16 per share with quarterly dividends going forward to be paid during the first week of February, May, August and November.