Paddy Power Plc will return 392 million euros ($439.28 million) to shareholders after the Irish gambling company said it had failed to identify any compelling acquisitions to spend its cash on following a year of record profit growth.
The decision to hand shareholders back 8 euros a share as well as a 13 percent increase in full year dividends will move the company from a net cash position to one of net debt of around one times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA).
Chief Executive Andy McCue, who took over in January after Patrick Kennedy's ten years in charge, will also review its Italian business, which is seeing slower than expected growth.
"We see further opportunities for efficiency by improving our investment discipline and leveraging scale and geographic synergies, which will allow us, crucially, to continue to invest in product and brand," McCue said in a statement on Tuesday.
Paddy Power, which has more than doubled its annual profit since 2009 through overseas expansion and a stronger online performance than its rivals, said its operating profit rose 19 percent to 163.8 million euros last year.
That was slightly ahead of the 162.3 euros forecast by analysts polled by Reuters and like British rival William Hill , represented a year of record profit growth, helped by last year's soccer World Cup -- the industry's largest event.
McCue said 2015 had started well, with sportsbook stakes up 18 percent online and 8 percent year-on-year in shops. ($1 = 0.8924 euros)