GSK buyback eyed after Quest sale

GlaxoSmithKline stoked hopes that it might restart its share buyback programme last night after announcing the sale of its stake in Quest Diagnostics in a $1.7bn (£802m) deal.

The pharmaceutical group's chief executive, Andrew Witty, raised the prospect of a buyback in December, when he said the time to resume a repurchase scheme was getting closes. But hopes faded after GSK, which is due to issue full-year results today, unveiled a record £2.2bn legal for the fourth quarter of 2010.

News of the Quest sale suggests that a programme may be back on the agenda, according to analysts. "The proceeds... should now allow the company to restart its repurchase programme," Mr Jefferies said.