The government sold part of its stake in Japan Tobacco Inc. to the tobacco manufacturer Thursday in response to the entity’s offer to repurchase its shares, the Finance Ministry said.

The government sold 44,000 shares to JT for 33.22 billion yen, or 755,000 yen per share, outside of regular trading hours, the ministry said.

JT said it bought back 45,800 shares from the government and from the market for 34.58 billion yen.

The firm will keep the purchased shares as treasury stock for possible equity swap deals in corporate buyouts in the future, JT officials said.

Although the government’s plan under the 2003 budget is to sell 330,000 JT shares, it had refrained until now to avoid hurting the stock market.

But because the transaction was outside normal trading hours at Wednesday’s closing price, it was not expected to have much impact, ministry officials said.

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