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Humana says it will start offering a 25-cent quarterly cash dividend, as it becomes the latest large health insurer to reward shareholders with a sizeable payout.

A spokesman says this will be Humana's first dividend since 1993.

The Louisville, Ky., company forecast first-quarter earnings ahead of Street estimates and increased its full-year profit guidance.

Humana's board also is replacing its share repurchase authorization of up to $250 million with an authorization to repurchase up to $1 billion by June 30, 2013.

UnitedHealth Group, WellPoint and Aetna all have announced new dividends or big increases in them over the past year. Strong financial performances have given insurers a growing supply of cash to spend after stocking the reserves they need to keep for claims.

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