Thursday 12 December 2019 10:29 am

WPP kicks off £300m share buyback

WPP today said it has entered into an agreement with Goldman Sachs to buy back up to £300m in shares, following its $4bn sale of market research firm Kantar.

Shares are up just over two per cent on the news.

The advertising giant said the share buyback programme will begin today and continue until 18 March 2020.

Read more: WPP returns to growth but predicts full-year like-for-like decline

WPP said the purpose of the arrangement was to reduce the company’s share capital. It represents roughly a quarter of the total share buyback amount approved by shareholders.

The buyback comes a week after WPP announced the completion of its $4bn (£3bn) sale of a majority stake in market research firm Kantar to Bain Capital.

WPP said it expects to retain roughly £1.4bn from the proceeds, while around £950m will be paid out to shareholders.

Chief executive Mark Read last week said the sale, which completed earlier than expected, would help to strengthen the holding group’s balance sheet, and “substantially completed” its disposal programme.

“It is a major step in simplifying and focusing WPP, and we intend to return around eight per cent of our share capital to shareholders through a buyback programme,” he said.

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WPP, which posted a surprise return to growth in the third quarter, has signalled it is ready to look at acquisitions again as its turnaround strategy begins to pay off.

The ad firm said it aims to reduce debt to the low end of the target leverage range of 1.5 to 1.75x average net debt/earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation by the end of next year.