‘That US Corporate Cash Pile Is Being Spent’, So What About The Buybacks?

‘That US Corporate Cash Pile Is Being Spent’, So What About The Buybacks?

To call SocGen's Andrew Lapthorne an ardent critic of financial engineering would be to grossly understate the case. For years, Lapthorne has criticized the leveraging of corporate balance sheets to repurchase inflated shares. If there is one theme that pervades Andrew's research, it's that rising corporate debt is clearly linked to buybacks, and to the extent excessive leverage is inherently a bad thing, it's even worse when employed in the service of "artificially" boosting share prices and E
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3 thoughts on “‘That US Corporate Cash Pile Is Being Spent’, So What About The Buybacks?

  1. WOW! The chart from Goldman does not give a lot of hope. Basically the only reason we haven’t had the second leg of the great recession is because of price agnostic buying from buybacks.

    Also a friendly reminder that the buyback blackout window starts rolling in next week. Yay?

  2. I agree with Lapthorne. My problem, however silly is must seem, is what to do with firms who have bought back so much overpriced stock that they no longer have a positive book value (see Kimberly Clark and many others). In the old days, when I was a finance prof, we used to call that insolvency. Credit rating agencies like Moody’s would look at such a B/S and reduce the credit ratings of such firms, those that owe more than they have in assets, to junk. Because they bought back the stock at more than its book value per share, there is still some left on the market. But that stock doesn’t belong to the company and it can’t be used by the company to pay its bills (what we used to call debts). So how does the firm pay back its debts when they come due? It uses some cash, if it has any left, or it issues new debt. I don’t want any of that. Hopefully the firm makes a profit — if not it is well and truly bankrupt — and gets some more cash. Trouble is it needs that cash to pay for CAPEX, if it still does that kind of thing, and paying off those pesky debts that come due. In any case what financial engineering does is reduce a firm’s financial flexibility. This whole bunch of crap is artificially inflating share prices to enrich CEOs, who God knows need it, poor babies, so they can buy another eight digit house and treat themselves to a nice new $25k watch. All these buybacks reduce CAPEX, causes workers to get laid off, and continues the trend of no growth real income. If this keeps up too much longer some folks are going to get very pissed and the worm may turn once again, and not to another Trump. Check it out.

  3. There is an optimal capital structure depending on the business. One should structure their bal sheet in order to reach the lowest WACC. Some debt is therefore appropriate and too much should be reflected in a higher cost of equity (in theory). Many corps are missing the optimal sadly today.

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