Why Investors Do Not, and Will Not, Care About Another Big IBM Stock Buyback

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More of the same. That is what International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) should say when it comes to share buybacks and its shareholder capital plan. We already had been promised more share buybacks by the company in months and quarters past, and now we have more on that front. The problem is that shareholders just don’t care — and it seems hard to imagine that Warren Buffett is going to come to its public defense now.

IBM announced on Tuesday that its board of directors has declared a regular quarterly cash dividend and has increased its share buyback authorization. While the dividend is not really new, it was already a 3.6% yield based on Monday’s closing price. Its $1.30 per common share dividend is payable December 10, 2015, to holders of record as of November 10, 2015.

What matters more is the stock buyback expansion. IBM has been buying back stock endlessly. The company has spent billions and billions — and the stock keeps falling and falling. Wall Street and main street alike have seen through the financial engineering for quite some time now.

IBM’s board authorized $4 billion in new funds that can be used for buying back outstanding shares of its common stock. That $4 billion is actually an understatement here because it is in addition to the roughly $2.4 billion remaining at the end of September 2015 from IBM’s prior buyback authorization. All in all, this means that IBM will have roughly $6.4 billion that it can use for stock buybacks.

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IBM’s market cap is now under $140 billion. It also can be pointed out that IBM’s share price of $141.60 is barely $2.00 above its 52-week low, as well as down almost $30.00 from its 52-week high.

IBM’s buyback plan is to repurchase shares on the open market or in private transactions — from time to time, depending on market conditions.

CEO Ginni Rometty’s quote said the following:

We are committed to a higher value strategy fueled by innovation and a shift to new growth opportunities. We manage the business for the long term and will continue to return significant value to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases.

If all of this sounds familiar, there is a reason. It just keeps repeating itself. The reality is that shareholders just no longer care about buybacks. IBM simply cannot grow in a manner that will rectify the weakness in the core IT-services business. The new growth projects are impressive. They just are nowhere near enough in size to move the needle much yet.

Big Blue needs to understand that the investment community does not want to reward the no-growth, multiyear efforts. It also remains to be seen if IBM would even be rewarded by shareholders for making a big acquisition that could spur more growth.

The chant inside IBM just seems to be “Try, try and try again!” So far that just is not working out at all. No one really trusts that IBM’s valuation of just under 10 times earnings really counts.

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