Why Did Walmart Just Announce a $20 billion Share Buyback Program?

walmart share buyback

Well, to be honest, just because it can.

Walmart is not just another retailer. It is the world’s largest in terms of revenue, which means it is also the largest in terms of the number of goods sold and number of customers it has. The company is a stone’s throw away from bringing in half a trillion dollars in annual revenue, and the business brings in tons of cash flow, which the company can chose to spend as it deems fit.

Granted, Walmart’s recent out-performance in the e-commerce segment has helped the company improve its revenue, defying its own size in an extremely competitive domestic market. In the first six months of the current financial year, Walmart’s total revenue was $240.897 million, a growth of 1.7% compared to last year. E-commerce growth remained extremely strong as net sales and gross merchandise value (GMV) both increased by more than 60% during the period.

“We have good momentum in the business, we’re executing our strategy and moving with speed to win with the customer, who is more connected than ever and embracing tools that will save them both time and money,” said Walmart CEO Doug McMillon. “We’re combining the accessibility of our stores with eCommerce to provide new and exciting ways for customers to shop. I’m proud of the team we have in place, the work we have underway and how we are positioned for success in the future.”

E-Commerce has been growing at above 50% since the time Walmart decided to buy Jet.com for $3 billion and bring Jet’s management team under its fold. The US retail market is under a huge squeeze due to competition, and most of the big box retailers are struggling to get customers to walk in through their doors. Walmart’s revenue growth is no mean feat under the current circumstances, and it has certainly boosted the confidence of the company. In turn, the company is merely boosting the amount of money it spends on share buybacks.

Of course, there is always the benefit of improving market sentiment and increasing its share price, as every share buyback increases per-share earnings. But the program is indeed massive, because Walmart is planning to spend $20 billion over the next two years.

The earlier share repurchase program announced by Walmart, the one the current program will replace, was also for $20 billion dollars.

Walmart has seriously upped the ante when it comes to share buyback activity. The company spent around $5 billion in the FY 2015-2016 period, which was increased to more than $12 billion in FY 2016-2017, and the plan is to take it to $18 billion during the FY 2017-2018 period.

So the new share repurchase program is a huge step up from what Walmart has done before, and it has been going up and up in the last three years. When you are expecting to make $80 billion in operating cash flow in a three-year period, no one is going to blame you for diverting $20 billion towards share buybacks, and if that announcement is going to help the stock price increase, then why not?

As expected, the market responded positively to the share buyback announcement, and the stock was up by 4.47% by the end of trading on Tuesday, October 10.

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