CHS joins special dividend payers

Hospital chain plans first payout since going public

The board of directors of Community Health Systems has declared the company's first dividend since the hospital chain went public a dozen years ago.

The one-time 25-cents-per-share payout will be paid to shareholders of record on Dec. 17 and makes CHS the latest of hundreds of companies that have declared special dividends before an expected rise in tax rates on Jan. 13. Other locals that have made similar moves include hospital rival HCA Holdings and nursing home operators National HealthCare Corp. and Advocat.

“This special cash dividend of $0.25 per share provides us with an opportunity to return capital to our shareholders with payment prior to the end of the year,” said Chairman, President and CEO Wayne Smith

The dividend's $23 million tab won't make much of a dent in CHS' coffers. The company finished the third quarter with more than $240 million in cash and cash equivalents on its balance sheet.

Shares of CHS (Ticker: CYH) closed Friday trading at $29.72 and have climbed more than 70 percent in 2012. But they're still down about 5 percent over the past three years because of fallout from the company's aborted bid to buy rival Tenet Healthcare. During that time, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index has climbed almost 30 percent.