SmithKline could hand back pounds 5bn

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The Independent Online
SMITHKLINE BEECHAM yesterday raised the prospect of a huge return of cash to investors with plans to seek shareholder approval to buy back almost pounds 5bn worth of shares. The drug giant said that it would ask its next shareholders' meeting at the end of April for permission to purchase up to 10 per cent of its own stock.

The company said that it had no immediate plans for its first-ever share buyback. However, it added that the move would give it "greater flexibility" in spending surplus cash, which is set to be boosted by asset sales and growing drug sales. During 1999, SB will receive around $2bn in cash and shares from the sale of two US businesses.