Put the brakes on buybacks and give investors the cash
— Financial Times
Let’s hope the trend held. As of the end of the third quarter, U.S. companies were on course to buy back $336-billion (U.S.) of their own shares in 2012, according to Dealogic – 28 per cent less than the year before.
One need not think, as some do, that buybacks are pure sleight-of-hand to be encouraged by this slowdown. A buyback gives investors who do not sell an increased claim on a company’s future profit stream; that is a legitimate use of corporate cash if said profit stream is attractively priced relative to other options. But boards and bosses like buybacks for several bad reasons.