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Adidas seeks to placate investors with share buyback

October 1
4:31 AM 2014

German sportswear maker Adidas, facing investor discontent over its underperforming share price, announced on Wednesday plans to return to shareholders as much as 1.5 billion euros ($1.9 billion) over the next three years.

Adidas said in a statement the shareholder return program would be financed mainly from the group's free cash flow, adding share buybacks would start in the fourth quarter and be completed by Dec. 31, 2017.

It said the buybacks were in addition to the company's policy of paying out to shareholders 20-40 percent of its net income as a dividend.

Adidas also said it would issue two Eurobonds with a total volume of up to 1 billion euros - with a seven and 12 year term - saying it would use the proceeds to pay down debt and to prefund future debt maturities, pension payments and returns to shareholders.

Its shares shares, which are down more than a third this year, jumped 3.7 percent by 0714 GMT to the top of Germany's blue-chip index, which was 0.1 percent firmer.

The company, the world's second biggest sportswear firm after U.S. rival Nike, issued its third profit warning in a year in July, blaming a plunge in sales at its golf business and its exposure to a weak Russian market.

While Nike has encroached on Adidas's home territory in western Europe, the German firm has failed to make serious inroads in North America. Its U.S. rival extended its lead to take a 15 percent global market share in 2013 compared with 10.8 percent for Adidas, according to Euromonitor.

Last month, Germany's manager magazin said hedge funds including Knight Vinke, Third Point and TCI were considering buying stake in Adidas to pressure management to make sweeping changes, although one of the funds dismissed this.

The magazine said the funds would seek radical changes at Adidas, including the removal of Chief Executive Herbert Hainer and the possible spin off of fitness brand Reebok and golf label TaylorMade.

Hainer had his contract extended until 2017 earlier this year to allow the company to work on a succession plan. He has recently overhauled top management, appointing Roland Auschel and Eric Liedtke as new heads of global sales and global brands.

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