A.G. Edwards

( AGE) said Friday that its board approved a plan to repurchase as many as 10 million common shares through Dec. 31, 2002.

The St. Louis-based retail brokerage concern, which has about 79 million shares outstanding, also declared a quarterly cash dividend of 16 cents, to be paid April 2 to shareholders of record March 9.

A.G. Edwards said any shares acquired through the stock repurchase program will be used for the company's stock-based employee benefit plans and to partially offset the effect of the shares issued in the past under the plans. The company recently completed a 33 million share buyback program adopted in May 1996.

Shares of the company were recently off $2.07, or 5.2%, to $37.79 in trading on the

New York Stock Exchange

.