By Deepa Seetharaman and Josh Beckerman

Facebook Inc. on Friday announced a $6 billion share repurchase program, its first since going public four years ago.

The buyback of Class A shares is authorized to start in the first quarter of 2017 and doesn't have an end date. The company has about $26 billion in cash and marketable securities on its balance sheet.

The announcement comes a couple of weeks after the social network reported strong third-quarter earnings, but warned that it couldn't maintain its current pace of growth. Facebook also said it plans to spend more on data centers and hiring engineers next year.

Facebook shares have fallen almost 10% since the Nov. 2 earnings report, but are still up about 12% for the year, giving it a market value of $337.8 billion. Its shares rose 1.3% to $118.51 in after-hours trading Friday.

In a regulatory filing, the company said buybacks will depend on factors such as price and market conditions, and may include open market or privately negotiated transactions.

Also Friday, Facebook announced that its Chief Accounting Officer Jas Athwal will step down Feb. 17. Facebook will be conducting an external search for Mr. Athwal's replacement, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Athwal has been at Facebook for almost nine years.

Write to Deepa Seetharaman at Deepa.Seetharaman@wsj.com and Josh Beckerman at josh.beckerman@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 18, 2016 17:41 ET (22:41 GMT)

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