There is a long-standing debate over the effect and impact of share buyback plans. What is not up for debate is that many companies have given big updates or announced new buyback plans in the month of December. In less than two weeks we had some $15 billion in updated buybacks, but through December 22 we actually have a much larger number: almost $29 billion tracked in just these buybacks! The number is likely over $30 billion already.
We have updates for AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Aetna Inc. (NYSE: AET), AutoZone Inc. (NYSE: AZO), Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK), Baxter International Inc. (NYSE: BAX), Chubb Corporation (NYSE: CB), ConAgra Foods, Inc. (NYSE: CAG), Encana Corp. (NYSE: ECA), Enzon Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ENZN), Franklin Resources Inc. (NYSE: BEN), The Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE: HD), Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC), Markel Corp. (NYSE: MKL), Safeway Inc. (NYSE: SWY), Stryker Corp. (NYSE: SYK) and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Limited (NASDAQ: TEVA), TIBCO Software Inc. (NASDAQ: TIBX), and Trinity Industries Inc. (NYSE: TRN).
The buyback ETF is PowerShares Buyback Achiever Portfolio (NYSE: PKW), and we have highlighted that herein as well. We also took a look at the continuing situations in General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) and Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO). For buybacks in 2011, there is already evidence that Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC), Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC), and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) could begin significant buyback programs.
There is a long-standing debate over whether or not stock buybacks are an effective return of cash to shareholders. It’s a simple theory by lowering the number of outstanding shares to boosts the price of the stock. That does not always work, but many companies are willing to spend billions upon billions for this effort. Investors need to know that many new buyback plans are coming. We wanted to track December’s big buybacks now that we are likely over some $30 billion if you include the many smaller buybacks we either missed or eliminated due to size and the length of this already.
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) announced last week that it plans to repurchase as many as 300 million shares. This would represent some $8.7 billion worth of stock at the time, or about 5% of its shares. The current market cap is close to $171 billion.
Aetna Inc. (NYSE: AET) approved the repurchase of $750 million of stock, which is actually in addition to roughly $257 million left in prior approvals. We’ll call it $1 billion for short, and that compares to a market cap of just over $12 billion at the time.
AutoZone Inc. (NYSE: AZO) added some $500 million into its buyback plan. The company noted, “Since the inception of the repurchase program in 1998, and including the above amount, AutoZone’s Board of Directors has authorized $9.9 billion.” Its market cap is currently just shy of $12 billion.