Cash Rich Companies Choosing Stock Repurchases Rather Than Dividend Hikes - Part XIII

by: The Value Investor

This week, I will run you through the most important buyback announcements for the week of May 7 till May 11, which turned out to be a reasonably active week in terms of buyback activity.

While consumers and governments across the world are strapped for cash, corporations have plenty. Rather than signal long-term trust and pay more generous long-term oriented dividends, many of them have adopted share repurchases to buy back their own stock. Investors welcome these announcements as they boost earnings per share and provide a lot of support for the share price during the repurchase periods.

Cognizant Technology Solutions (CTSH) the provider of information technology, consulting and business outsourcing services announced a $400 million share repurchase program. The plan is sufficient to retire roughly 2.2% of outstanding shares. Shares in the company have moved from lows of $20 in the beginning of 2009 and have stabilized in a trading range between $60-$80 last year. In recent weeks shares took a dive towards the $60 bound after the company lowered its full year 2012 outlook. The announcement of the modest repurchase plan is welcomed by investors who currently do not receive a dividend.

Discovery Communications (DISCA) the global media and entertainment company focused on television networks and education services announced a $1 billion share repurchase program, sufficient to retire 8.1% of shares outstanding. The announcement comes after shares have seen a little correction to levels around $49 after reaching all time highs of $55 earlier this month. Shares have fallen recently after the company missed its earnings targets after losses at its Oprah Winfrey Network kept mounting, reaching $330 million since inception. The company currently does not pay a dividend.

Sapient Corporation (SAPE) the global service company which focuses on technology and marketing solutions announced a $100 million share repurchase program. The plan is sufficient to retire about 6.9% of its outstanding shares. The company announced the plan after shares have fallen significantly earlier in May after the company issued a second quarter revenue guidance which came in much lower than analysts had anticipated. In a response to the 20% decline in the share price, the company took advantage and announced the sizable program which comes on top of the $0.35 dividend the company pays.

Mylan (MYL) the developer and marketer of generic pharmaceutical drugs announced a $500 million share repurchase program, sufficient to retire 5.9% of its shares outstanding. Earlier this month the generic drug maker raised its full year 2012 earnings guidance to $2.45-$2.55 per share. The company believes that there is a strong rationale for the buyback. "Given our current share price and the continued strong performance of our business, we believe that the repurchase represents an appropriate use of our capital and an opportunity to return value to our shareholders", according to the company's executives. Currently the company does not pay a dividend.

AmerisourceBergen (ABC) the pharmaceutical company announced a $750 million share repurchase program, enough to retire 9.2% of its outstanding shares. The new repurchase program is a replacement of the old $750 million repurchase program which expired after the company already repurchased some $500 million of its own stock in 2012. Currently the company pays a $0.13 in quarterly dividends for an annual dividend yield of 1.4%.

During the last week, repurchase activity remained steady as a range of buyback announcements brought the total announced deal size to $3 billion, which makes it a rather active week in terms of buyback activity and size.

Cash-rich companies still refuse to significantly raise long-term dividends. Rather, they use one-time repurchase agreements with far less signaling power as a dispersion tool of excess cash to their shareholders.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.