BP’s $8 Billion Buyback Is Money Badly Spent

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British-based oil supermajor BP PLC (NYSE: BP) deposited a check for nearly $12.5 billion yesterday as it closed the sale of its 50% in TNK-BP to Russia’s Rosneft. The company announced this morning that it will repurchase up to $8 billion worth of BP stock “to return to BP shareholders an amount equivalent to the value of the company’s original investment in TNK-BP.”

Isn’t that cute? Closure and all that.

First of all, $8 billion in 2003 is now “equivalent to the value” of nearly $10 billion, just adding inflation alone. Second, BP has about 3.2 billion shares outstanding. At this morning’s price of around $41 a share, the company can repurchase about 195 million shares, or 6% of the outstanding stock. The math says that 6% of $41 is nearly $2.50.

We expect a large shareholder to point out that $8 billion spread over BP’s outstanding shares could pay a one-time dividend of around $2.50 per share right now. There is not much question which choice most shareholders would make, if they could choose. Of course BP does not have to worry about a shareholder revolt — with a market cap of around $130 billion even the largest shareholders have little power to force the company’s board to do anything.

BP’s shares are up about 3% in premarket trading this morning, at $42.06 in a 52-week range of $36.25 to $46.26. Expect a 6% boost today.