ChevronTexaco Corp. has approved a program to repurchase up to $5 billion of the company’s common stock. The repurchases were to begin Thursday and continue for up to three years.

“We’ve had a sustained period of strong cash flows from our company operations,” said CEO Dave O’Reilly. “As a result, we’ve been able to significantly reduce our debt levels and make voluntary funding contributions to our major employee pension plans.”

Share repurchases will be made from “time to time” at prevailing prices under securities laws and other legal requirements, and will be subject to market conditions. The company noted that the buybacks could be discontinued at any time.

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