Washington Post Co. Shares Spike on News of Big Stock Buyback

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

Washington Post Co. stock (NYSE: WPO) rallied Thursday on news its board had authorized a buyback program of 750,000 shares, or more than 10% of its Class B common stock outstanding.

With a little more than two hours to the 4 p.m. close, WPO was trading at $377.97, up $17.75, or 4.9%, from the open. Post Co. stock has been beaten down in recent weeks on investor fears that proposed rule changes to the federally subsidized student loan program could shut some of its Kaplan Higher Education for-profit schools out of the program. Kaplan’s education business accounts for about two-thirds of Post Co. revenue.

WPO has traded in a 52-week range of $295.56 to $547.55. In December of 2004, WPO hit a high price that was just two cents shy of $1,000.

The Post Co. did not announce a ceiling price or time limit on the buybacks, which includes more than 16,000 shares from a previous stock repurchase authorization. The total authorization amounts to 10.4% of the 7,235,962 million Class B common shares outstanding.

The Post Co. also declared a regular quarterly dividend of $2.25 per share, payable on November 5 to shareholders of record on October 25.

In January, the Post Co. increased its annual dividend rate to $9 a share from $8.60. Most publicly traded newspaper companies have eliminated their dividend completely or, like Gannett Co., pay a nominal amount.

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