Wells Fargo concentrating on raising shareholder dividend

Wells Fargo & Co.'s chief financial officer said Wednesday that raising the shareholder dividend will be the bank's "top priority" when it starts deploying the capital on its balance sheet.

"We're eager to return more of our money back to shareholders," added chief executive John Stumpf, discussing the bank's record $3.15 billion in third-quarter earnings with analysts. "They've been very patient."

The San Francisco bank, which bought Charlotte's Wachovia in 2008, slashed its quarterly dividend from 34 cents to 5 cents in early 2009, as most of the industry made similar cutbacks. For shareholders who joined Wells Fargo through its Wachovia purchase, the dividend is essentially even lower because Wachovia shareholders received only about one Wells Fargo share for every five Wachovia shares.

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