While politicians and other critics have focused on stock buybacks being a poor use of cash versus investing in and growing a company, they have completely missed the boat. As have those in the business press who have concentrated their critiques on the timing and high stock prices paid for these buybacks. In so doing, all these parties have provided a smokescreen for executives of publicly traded corporations to continue their Chinese water-torture plundering of American’s savings.
Instead, the real charade of stock buybacks is that they have nothing to do with the shareholder and enhancing shareholder value, and everything to do with self-remuneration, as outlined in ‘The Skim and the Partial Ponzi.’
Yet a long time ago, buybacks really were very beneficial to shareholders, as they allowed good managers to take advantage of the inefficiencies and dislocations of the capital markets. The underlying thesis behind value investing was that if a company’s ability to generate cash wasn’t recognized by the market, that excess cash could be used to buy back stock and shrink the float. If despite this buttressing, the stock price continued to languish, it could be done again and again as cash continued to pile up on a company’s balance sheet (now at an even faster rate due to the buybacks being accretive and increasingly so). The key ingredient to all this was that the price of the company had to be undervalued.1
Nowadays though, stock buybacks are done indiscriminately, and usually executed very poorly. The main reason for these “sloppy” buybacks is that they simply have to be done in order to offset dilution from employee stock and stock option awards. Leading to the question:
What would happen if all publicly traded companies stopped buying back stock altogether? [Read more…] about HENRY SINGLETON WHERE ART THOU?
- Sure, this is a very discretionary measure. I could just fallback and use Warren Buffett’s term of “selling for far less than intrinsic value in the stock market.” But I’d prefer to hone in on a company’s ability to generate excess cash, both currently and going forward [↩]