The corporation celebrated several key anniversaries during 1997. It was the 90th year of producing Hershey's Kisses chocolates, an American icon. The brand has been expanded to include Hershey's Kisses With Almonds chocolates and Hershey's Hugs chocolates.
December 1, 1997, marked the 70th anniversary of the listing of the corporation's Common Stock on the New York Stock Exchange. In addition, the corporation has paid a dividend on the Common Stock every quarter since the first quarter of 1930 a total of 273 consecutive quarterly dividends paid through March 13, 1998. The 10% increase paid in September 1997 was the 23rd consecutive annual increase of the dividend rate for the corporation's Common Stock.
Another highlight of 1997 was the August repurchase of 9.9 million shares of Common Stock from the Milton Hershey School Trust for $500 million. Since mid-1993 we have repurchased through open market and private transactions 37.5 million shares for $1.3 billion. Our strong cash flow has enabled the corporation to reduce total outstanding shares by almost 21%.