UPDATE 1-Thai PTT group to spend $571 mln to stabilise shares

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BANGKOK, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Thailand's largest energy firm, PTT PCL PTT.BK, said on Thursday it planned to spend up to 20 billion baht ($571 million) in an effort to stabilise its share price.

The figure includes 5 billion baht already spent by PTT to buy its shares through an energy fund. The remaining 15 billion baht may be used to buy back shares in PTT or its subsidiaries, PTT Chief Executive Prasert Bunsumpun told reporters.

State-controlled PTT, whose shares have dropped around 60 percent in the last 12 months, is studying a plan to buy back shares in the stock market, and the timing would depend on how the Thai bourse changed rules on share buyback plans, he said.

“PTT is considering both direct and indirect ways to stabilise share prices,” Prasert said.

The stock exchange has said it plans to relax rules to encourage listed companies to buy back their own shares.

Like many firms in Asia, several Thai companies are considering plans to buy back shares after their stocks fell sharply in the wake of the global financial crisis.

PTT shares, which hit a four-year low of 140 baht late last month, were down 5.3 percent at 142 baht at 0456 GMT, when the overall Thai stock market was 4 percent lower.

PTT recently accumulated more shares in petrochemical refiner IRPC IRPC.BK to raise its holding to 37 percent and has policy to hold no more than 40 percent of the firm, Prasert said.

PTT, Thailand’s biggest listed company, valued at $12 billion, runs the country’s gas pipeline monopoly and controls more than 30 petroleum gas exploration, petrochemical and refinery businesses.

Its major subsidiaries, including PTT Exploration and Production PTTE.BK, PTT Chemical PTTC.BK and PTT Aromatics and Refinery PTTAR.BK, are also studying share buyback plans, Prasert said. ($1=35.02 Baht) (Reporting by Pisit Changplayngam; Writing by Khettiya Jittapong; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Alex Richardson)