New Delhi/Mumbai: Coal India Ltd, the world’s biggest miner of the fuel, lowered an interim dividend payout to shareholders by almost a third from a year earlier as employee costs increased.

Shareholders will get Rs18.75 a share, down from Rs27.4 a year earlier, and the payout will cost the Kolkata-based company Rs11,640 crore($1.7 billion), according to Bloomberg calculations based on a stock exchange filing. The company has set 15 March as the record date for the payout.

The dividend comes amid declines in the company’s profits as provisions to account for retroactive salary increases weighed on earnings. Coal India produces more than 80% of the country’s coal.

“Dividend payouts are the only thing that’s still retaining investors’ interest in the stock," Goutam Chakraborty, an analyst with Emkay Global Financial Services, said before the announcement. “A lower payout than last year will be negative for the stock."

Coal India shares rose 0.3% to Rs324 as of 9:40am in Mumbai. The benchmark S&P BSE Sensex was little changed. Bloomberg