There has been a lot of debate at Seeking Alpha about whether share buybacks are "good" or "bad". Before the question can be answered, it must be clarified: "good" for whom? "bad" for whom?
Suppose you believe that share buybacks are good for you as a shareholder. You might believe this because you believe that you will receive more of a company's dividend dollars, if those dividend dollars are divided among fewer shares. [I will ignore for this discussion (1) companies that announce share buybacks but do not execute them, (2) companies that buy back shares when they are expensive and so destroy shareholder value, and (3) companies that buy back shares but do not retire them.]
If you believe that share buybacks are good for you, then you might also believe that more share buybacks are even better for you. If we take this to its logical conclusion, the best thing that could happen to you would be if a company bought back all of its shares but one, and you owned that one share. You would then own 100% of the company, and you would then receive 100% of the dividend dollars.
I would love to own 100% of a company that paid dividends, but I can't afford to.
Warren Buffett can afford to. but Berkshire Hathaway owns 100% of many companies. Berkshire Hathaway owns less than 100% of 37 companies. Here is a chart of those 37 and their dividend histories:
Of those 37:
- 4 are Dividend Champions
- 4 are Dividend Contenders
- 3 are Dividend Challengers (See David Fish's lists of Dividend Champions, Contenders, and Challengers)
- 18 have paid dividends continuously for between 1 and 35 years (some have frozen or decreased their dividend)
- 4 have paid dividends at least once
- 4 have never paid a dividend
I conclude that Warren Buffett is the world's biggest dividend investor.
So should you buy BRK? I wouldn't. BRK doesn't pay a dividend.
Should you buy all of the dividend companies that BRK owns? I wouldn't. My requirements are dividend increases for at least the past 10 consecutive years and a current dividend yield of at least 3% and many of BRK's holdings do not meet my requirements.
Should you think for yourself, and buy what makes sense to you? I'm all in favor of that.