GREELEY, COLO. — Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. has declared a special $1.5 billion dividend payment, equating to $5.77 per share on the common stock. The dividend is payable Feb. 17 to shareholders of record Jan. 30.

The company described the extraordinary dividend as part of its “strategy of improving its capital structure and generating shareholder value.” The $5.77 dividend alone equates to 18% of the closing market price of the company’s shares Jan. 14, the date of the announcement. In Nasdaq trading the following day, Pilgrim’s Pride rose $3.04, or 9.6%, to close at $34.57 after hitting a session high of $35.37. The dividend will be the first paid by the company since September 2008.

“Three years ago our company initiated a strategy to create shareholder value and improve capital structure by partnering with key customers, relentlessly pursuing operational excellence and growing our value added exports,” said William W. Lovette, chief executive officer. “The board’s decision to approve the special dividend payments is a testament to this strategy, our financial discipline and our confidence in the future. We will continue on our path to generate shareholder value with an improved capital structure while maintaining the flexibility to pursue our growth strategy.”

In June 2014, Pilgrim’s Pride made an unsuccessful $7.7 billion bid to acquire Hillshire Brands Co., Chicago.