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France's Teleperformance to buy back shares after sell-off on probe news

PARIS (Reuters) -French office support technology company Teleperformance said on Thursday it planned to buy back up to 150 million euros ($149.1 million) of its shares after a sharp sell-off sparked by news of a probe into suspected labour violations at its Colombian subsidiary.

The shares, which were suspended at the company's request after plunging 33.9%, will resume trading on Friday at 0800 GMT.

Olivier Rigaudy, chief operating officer of Teleperformance, told journalists on a call the share buyback was meant to send a signal of confidence and reassure shareholders.

Colombia is Teleperformance's third-biggest country in terms of its workforce.

Asked about the reasons for the share suspension, Olivier Rigaudy pointed to the investigation, citing "the explosive, inflammable nature of this type of subject" and "the exceptional volatility of the market".

"People are afraid, make decisions too quickly," he added.

Teleperformance said it had not been officially notified of an audit by the Colombian government.

"Teleperformance is confident in the results of such an audit, as the management team of the Colombian subsidiary has always developed the company in compliance with the law," it said.

Colombian Minister of Labour Edwin Palma Egea tweeted on Tuesday, "We have decided to open an investigation against Teleperformance."

"We have notified the company and invite all workers and trade unions in the country to provide us with evidence of alleged violations of labour standards."

According to media reports, the employees of Teleperformance Colombia, which moderates online content for TikTok, were working in traumatic conditions for $10 a day.

TikTok moderators regularly had to view images of murder, child abuse and sexual violence as part of their work. And employees who expressed an intention to unionise were subjected to "intimidation and threats", Time reported.

Rigaudy said the group's moderators were paid 145%-380% more than regular employees and added that the attrition rate of content moderators was by nature high in all the countries where Teleperformance operates.

($1 = 1.0059 euros)

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Juliette Portala, and Dagmarah Mackos, editing by Jan Harvey, Barbara Lewis and Richard Chang)