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Moody's Sets $2 Billion Buyback

It affirms earnings and sales guidance.
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(MCO) - Get Moody's Corporation Report

authorized a new $2 billion share repurchase after exhausting roughly $654 million in buyback capacity since the end of the first quarter.

Shares of the bond rating agency closed at $52.80 Monday. At that price, $2 billion would buy back 38.5 million shares, or more than 13% of Moody's 290 million shares outstanding.

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Meanwhile, Moody's shares have traded between $73.29 and $51.71 since March 31. If Moody's spent all $654 million to buy back shares at the median price of $62.50, it would have bought back 10.5 million shares, or about 3.5% of its outstanding count.

"As management has previously discussed, the company plans to continue to return capital to shareholders by purchasing shares systematically as well as by purchasing opportunistically when conditions warrant," the company said.

Moody's also reiterated previous sales and earnings guidance. The company continues to expect 2006 EPS to rise by a percentage in the low double digits, before items, while revenue growth should be in the high-single to double digits.

The company sees operating margin before stock-based compensation to decline by up to 100 basis points in 2006 compared with 2005. "This reflects investments it is continuing to make to expand internationally, improve analytical processes, pursue ratings transparency and compliance initiatives, introduce new products and improve its technology infrastructure."