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board approved a new $10 billion stock repurchase program and voted to increase the drugmaker's quarterly dividend.

Under the new buyback program, the company will repurchase the stock from time to time on the open market in block transactions and in privately negotiated arrangements.

Merck is currently making stock repurchases under a previous $10 billion authorization. Through June 30, the company spent $7.7 billion to acquire 115.3 million shares under that buyback plan. Merck had about 2.3 billion shares outstanding as of June 30.

The company also declared a quarterly dividend of 36 cents on its common stock, payable Oct. 1 to shareholders of record Sept. 6. Merck's dividends for 2002 will total $1.41, which represents a 3% increase over last year.

Shares of Merck ended the day down 96 cents, or 2.4%, to $39.05 on the

New York Stock Exchange.