Merrill Lynch plans to buy back up to $6 billion in shares

Monday, February 27th 2006, 9:22 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Wall Street firm Merrill Lynch & Co. said Monday it plans to repurchase up to $6 billion of its shares, saying the buyback is a sign of the company's continued financial strength.

``Our earnings and capital generation have been strong, as has been our focus on balance sheet efficiency, making it possible for us to expeditiously return capital to shareholders even as we continue to invest for growth,'' Chief Financial Officer Jeff Edwards said in a statement.

At Friday's closing price of $76.76, Merrill would buy back about 78.2 million shares if it completed the repurchase plan. The company had 919.2 million shares outstanding as of Dec. 31.

``While we have increased our quarterly common stock dividends by 25 percent in each of the past two years, we continue to emphasize repurchases in order to maintain capital management flexibility,'' Edwards said.

Merrill said it will buy back its stock from time to time depending on market conditions.