updated 10/4/2006 5:12:00 PM ET 2006-10-04T21:12:00

Qwest Communications International Inc. said Wednesday its board has approved a two-year plan to repurchase up to $2 billion in stock to reward investors who remained loyal during several difficult years.

The repurchase plan represents about 12 percent of Qwest's equity capitalization, Chief Executive Officer Richard Notebaert said. "This action represents another key milestone for Qwest," he said in a statement.

Qwest has posted a profit for two consecutive quarters after working its way out of an accounting scandal that forced the company to restate billions of dollars.

Notebaert said previously the board was considering two options for rewarding shareholders, a dividend or a share buyback program or a combination of the two options.

The announcement was made public after the stock market closed. Shares of the Denver-based telephone company closed up 16 cents, or 1.87 percent, at $8.70 a share on the New York Stock Exchange.

Qwest is the primary telephone service provider in 14 mostly Midwestern and Western states. About 1.9 billion shares of common stock are outstanding.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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