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Costco increases dividend, announces share buyback

BY Allison Cerra

ISSAQUAH, Wash. — Wholesaler Costco on Tuesday said its board of directors has approved a $4 billion share buyback program. The company also raised its quarterly dividend by 17% to 24 cents, up from 20.5 cents.

The share buyback program expires in April 2015 and replaces a previous plan set to expire in July, which had $800 million remaining, the company said.

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CDC: Low availability of healthy foods in most states

BY Allison Cerra

ATLANTA — Many states need to improve healthy food access to promote healthy eating habits and curb obesity among children, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC’s "2011 Children’s Food Environment State Indicator Report" found that 32-out-of-50 states (along with the District of Columbia) scored at or below the national average for the Modified Retail Food Environment Index, a measure of the proportion of food retailers that typically sell healthy foods within a state.

The mRFEI scores can range from zero, which indicates no food retailers typically sell healthy food within the state, to 100. The national mRFEI score was 10. States with low mRFEI scores tend to have less supermarkets, which tend to sell more healthy foods, such as fruit and vegetables, than their counterparts (i.e., fast food restaurants and convenience stores).

"Childhood obesity has tripled over the past 30 years," CDC director Thomas Frieden said. "This report underscores the need to make healthier choices easier for kids and more accessible and affordable for parents."

To access the "2011 Children’s Food Environment State Indicator Report," click here.

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Former Ohio governor spokesman takes talents to Kroger

BY Gail Hoffer

CINCINNATI — Kroger has named Keith Dailey as the company’s external corporate communications director.

According to the company, Dailey will oversee national media communications for Kroger, which operates 2,458 supermarkets and multidepartment stores in 31 states under two dozen local banner names.

Serving as the spokesman for such a large company should come easy to Dailey. As the communications director for former Ohio governor Ted Strickland, Dailey likely had his fair share of media issues to tackle.

Fortunately for Dailey, generating good publicity for Kroger should be easy. The company reported that third-quarter revenue, including fuel, leaped 5.9% to $18.7 billion. Excluding fuel sales, total sales increased 3.1% in the third quarter, which ended Nov. 6, the company noted. Earnings per share for the company rose to 32 cents, totaling $202.2 million. During the same period last year, Kroger reported a net loss of $874.9 million, or $1.35 per diluted share, after the company’s $1.05 billion write-down of its Ralphs division.

"Keith has a wealth of experience and talent, and we’re very pleased that he is joining the Kroger family," said Lynn Marmer, group VP corporate affairs.

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