BERLIN (Reuters) -Mercedes Benz said on Thursday it plans to buy back up to 4 billion euros ($4.28 billion) of its shares over two years from March 2023, in a move welcomed by analysts ahead of the carmaker reporting full-year earnings on Friday.
Shareholders Beijing Automotive Group and Geely had agreed to divest their shares on a pro-rata basis concurrently with the share buyback to keep their stakes in the company below 10%, the statement added.
The two Chinese companies are the largest single shareholders in Mercedes-Benz, together holding nearly 20% of the carmaker.
Under German financial regulation, shareholdings beyond a 10% threshold must be disclosed to regulators for scrutiny.
Analysts expected the company to announce a share buy back programme to coincide with the publication of Friday’s fourth-quarter report given the company’s high liquidity in automotive – estimated by BofA Global Research to be over 25 billion euros for 2022 – and strong free cash flow.
“We see this as a positive step showcasing an improved capital allocation strategy,” Daniel Roeska of Bernstein Research said in a note.
($1 = 0.9354 euros)
(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa, Victoria Waldersee; Editing by Susan Fenton and Alistair Bell)