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AT&T Boosts Buyback to $15B

Debt-heavy Ma Bell spreads more cash to investors.

Dangling cash in front of investors,

AT&T

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shares jumped 3% as the telco raised its dividend and boosted its new share repurchase plan to $15.2 billion.

The news comes just four days after the big San Antonio, Texas, phone shop raised $3 billion through debt sales.

AT&T increased its quarterly dividend a nickel to 40 cents a share and authorized a 400-million-share buyback effort that it expects to conclude by the end of 2009.

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"This latest dividend increase, combined with the new share repurchase authorization, reflects the strength of AT&T's operations, and our board's confidence in the future of our business and our ability to continue to deliver strong results," CEO Randall Stephenson said in a press release.

But with the new loans, AT&T now has total debt of $63 billion. And with $2.7 billion in cash, as of September, that leaves Ma Bell holding $60 billion in net debt.

Telco peer

Verizon

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has trimmed its debt over the past five years. The New York phone giant has $31 billion in total debt and about $2 billion in cash and short-term investments, giving it a net debt of around $29 billion.

But big debts, even in times of credit concerns, have not really alarmed telecom investors. AT&T shares rose $1.40, or 3%, to $39.30 and Verizon was up 15 cents to $45.50 in premarket trading Tuesday.