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Tokyo to sell some shares in Japan Tobacco

The Japanese government said Monday it would sell one third of the shares it owns in Japan Tobacco (JT) to partially finance spending on the recovery from the 2011 quake-tsunami disaster.

The finance ministry will offload up to 333.33 million shares, reducing its holding of the former monopoly from 50 percent to "just over one third", a ministry official said.

A sale price will be set between March 11 and 13, the official said, adding that the planned sale is because of the government's efforts to help fund rebuilding after the disaster, which struck on March 11, 2011.

The announcement came shortly after the Tokyo Stock Exchange closed the day's trading on Monday, with JT shares 1.43 percent higher at 2,901 yen in a rising market.

JT, which controls about two-thirds of the Japanese tobacco market, separately said it would buy back up to 118 million shares for up to 250 billion yen ($2.7 billion) from the market ahead of the planned sale.

The buyback was part of efforts to shield its other shareholders from the effects of a massive release of shares on to the market, the company said.

The finance ministry said if the buyback went ahead, it would consider selling a portion of its holdings direct to the company, reducing its open-market sale accordingly.

The March 2011 tsunami and quake killed nearly 19,000 people and made hundreds of thousands of people homeless. It also sparked a nuclear emergency at Fukushima which experts say will take decades to clean up.