Expedia, Washington Post Join the Dividend Party

Online travel company Expedia (NASDAQ:EXPE) and media company The Washington Post Co. (NYSE:WPO) on Friday became the latest big-name companies to adjust their dividend payouts ahead of likely tax hikes at the start of 2013.

The two companies are joining a parade of U.S. companies hoping to get out ahead of the fiscal cliff by accelerating dividend payouts or unleashing special cash dividends.

Tax rates on dividends are scheduled to soar to 39.6% for the highest earners from their current level of just 15%.

Expedia’s board of directors approved of a special cash dividend of 52 cents a share. The move will cost the world’s largest full service online travel agency about $70 million.

Expedia, which is also the parent of Hotels.com and Hotwire, said the one-time payout is payable on December 28 to shareholders of record as of the close of business on December 17.

The Bellevue, Wash.-based company said the special dividend is on top of its regular quarterly cash dividend, which is payable on Friday to shareholders of record as of November 16.

Expedia’s shares closed up 0.25% to $59.83 on Friday, leaving them up a whopping 106% so far this year. In after-hours trading, Expedia dipped 0.25% to $59.68.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post unveiled a plan to accelerate its cash dividends for all of 2013 to later this month.

The company, which is the parent of Kaplan and the namesake newspaper, said the move is “consistent with its frequent review of the company’s dividend policy.”

The Washington Post said the accelerated cash dividend will total $9.80 a share, an unchanged rate from 2012, and will be in lieu of regular quarterly dividends that would have otherwise been paid in 2013.

The Washington, D.C.-based company said its accelerated dividend will be paid on December 27 to shareholders of record as of December 17.

The move comes after The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that the Washington Post will join a slew of other major national newspapers by charging readers for online access in 2013 amid tumbling ad sales.

Shares of the newspaper’s parent company rose 1.32% to $372.13 on Friday, but were inactive in extended trading.