ConocoPhillips Boosts Capital Spending, Dividend

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ConocoPhillips, the third-largest U.S. oil company, said it will increase its capital spending in 2011 by 21% to $13.5 billion with $12 billion of that sum devoted to exploration and production projects. The announcement comes just weeks after the company reported a 60% jump in fourth-quarter profits.

Texas-based ConocoPhillips (COP) said it will spend $6 billion in North America on shale plays and developing a new field in Alaska along with oil sands projects in Canada. Other projects include include further development of a coalbed methane-to-liquid natural gas joint venture in Australia and new fields offshore in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, according to the Associated Press.

While Conoco may be spending more on exploration and production, almost certainly a bid to take advantage of rising oil prices, the company is not ignoring its shareholders. The company said it will raised its quarterly dividend 20% to 66 cents a share from 55 cents. The new dividend is payable on March 1 to shareholders of record on Feb. 22.

Conoco also said it will add $10 billion to an existing share repurchase plan that has $1 billion left on it. The company is in the process of selling $10 billion in assets to shore up its balance sheet and reduce its debt load.