Microsoft, HP dangle cash to investors by Scott Moritz @FortuneMagazine September 22, 2008, 1:16 PM EST E-mail Tweet Facebook Google Plus Linkedin Share icons By Scott Moritz Big tech is putting its cash to work to appease investors. Microsoft and Hewlett Packard say they will throw weary shareholders a cash treat. Microsoft created a new five-year $40 billion share buyback plan and an 18% dividend boost. And HP has set aside $8 billion for share repurchases. The top PC maker had $3 billion of buyback money still in its budget under an $8 billion program it started in November. The buybacks are aimed at restoring investor interest in companies that have had very little to show in terms of growth amid a sluggish tech spending environment. Using some of the mountains of cash also helps discourage activist investors from forcing the companies to make a similar move on somewhat different terms. The move comes less than a week after Microsoft shares hit a two-year low on a broad credit-crisis selloff on Wall Street. The No.1 software shop says it has recently completed a previous $40 billion stock repurchase plan and by Microsoft’s tally, the company has now spent $115 billion on stock buybacks and dividends in the past five years. Microsoft will pay a dividend of 13 cents a quarter, or 52 cents a share. That is up 2 cents from the prior dividend of 11 cents a quarter, and up 8 cents annually from the 44-cent level. Microsoft’s board has also authorized up to $6 billion in debt financing including a new $2 billion participation in the commercial paper market. “The company’s strong credit quality coupled with investors’ current appetite for high quality paper provides a unique opportunity for the company to establish its first-ever commercial paper program and enhance its capital structure,” Microsoft treasurer George Zinn said in a press release. The company says it may use the financings to help fund operations and buy back stock. Shares of Microsoft rose 5% and HP was up 2% in premarket trading Monday.