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AT&T Says Buybacks to Slow as Internet Speed Investments Mount

AT&T Inc., the largest U.S. phone company, said it will slow the pace of share buybacks as it embarks on a project to speed up its Internet speeds.

The board authorized 300 million new share repurchases today, Dallas-based AT&T said today in a statement. The company has already bought 239 million of the shares from the most recent approval for 300 million buybacks last July, on top of the 300 million it was permitted to buy in December 2010.

AT&T is spending more to extend its Long Term Evolution mobile network and to install fiber-optic lines closer to more customers to increase their speeds. Capital expenditures will rise to a record $21 billion this year, up from $19.5 billion in 2012, AT&T said in January.

“Future repurchase decisions will be made opportunistically, which will slow the pace of buybacks compared to recent activity,” the company said.

AT&T reiterated a November forecast that it will keep its ratio of net debt to earnings at 1.8, leaving out interest, tax, depreciation and amortization. The measure climbed to 1.58 at the end of 2012, up from 1.42 in September.

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