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Australia's Telstra to return at least US$1.1b to shareholders

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Telstra Corp said on Monday it plans to return at least A$1.5 billion (S$1.53 billion) to shareholders on top of its dividend in the first half of the 2017 fiscal year, using cash from the sale of its stake in China's Autohome Inc.

[MELBOURNE] Telstra Corp said on Monday it plans to return at least A$1.5 billion (S$1.53 billion) to shareholders on top of its dividend in the first half of the 2017 fiscal year, using cash from the sale of its stake in China's Autohome Inc.

Australia's largest telecoms company said it had yet to decide how the funds would be returned, adding that that would depend on market conditions and regulatory approvals.

"I am pleased that we are able to confirm such a significant capital management programme as the result of active management of our investment portfolio," Telstra Chief Executive Andrew Penn said in a statement.

Telstra agreed to sell a 47.7 per cent stake in Autohome, an automobile information website, last month for US$1.6 billion, and said at the time it expected to book a huge gain on the sale.

The former state-owned company committed on Monday to maintain a single-A credit rating and ensure it can increase its dividend over time, and said following the capital return it would still have enough funds to invest in growth.

"Over a full year we will not borrow to pay the dividend or fund capital returns," the company said in slides prepared for its annual investor day.

REUTERS