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Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com announced a $1 billion share buyback program in a bid to lift stock prices weighed down by concerns about China’s economy and potential sexual-assault charges against the company’s chief executive. Wednesday’s announcement of the buyback plan comes just a few days after authorities in Minneapolis declined to charge JD.com Chief Executive Liu Qiangdong in a sexual-assault case that arose in August.
JD.com’s American depositary receipts have plunged 52.3% in the past year, closing at $19.75 on Monday. The buyback program is worth about 3.5% of the company’s market capitalization, and the company said it would be completed over the next 12 months.
Shares of JD.com and other Chinese tech companies have been battered this year as investors fret about slower economic growth in China, tightening government regulations and the trade battle with the U.S.
Both e-commerce rival Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. are down more than 23% this year. Tencent, which faced a regulatory stranglehold on new videogames for most of the year, spent more than a month this year buying back its own shares.
Compared with competitors, JD.com has fared worse in recent months as the company dealt with the fallout from the Aug. 31 arrest of Mr. Liu in Minneapolis on suspicion of rape. On Friday, prosecutors said they were declining to press charges. Mr. Liu has consistently denied all wrongdoing, and prosecutors said he acknowledged having consensual sex with his accuser.
Mr. Liu controls nearly 80% of JD.com’s voting shares and the board cannot meet without him unless he recuses himself.
With the sexual-assault charges gone, JD.com still has to contend with China’s weakening economy, which has depressed consumer demand for big-ticket items such as appliances. Its heavy investments into research and development have squeezed margins. Last month, the company reported that its active customer accounts fell from the preceding quarter for the first time since it went public in 2014.