Dividends vs. Share Repurchases

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Are share repurchases good or bad? The answer, as might be expected, is a bit gray. Assuming the company has a certain amount of cash they wish to return to shareholders, the two ways they can do it are through dividends and share repurchases. Share repurchases are typically more flexible for the company, while dividends are more flexible for the shareholder. The basic answer is that share repurchases are great when the share price is undervalued, and not-so-great when the share price is overvalued. To put it into a more useful context, if you would otherwise reinvest your dividends or invest new capital into the company at current stock prices, then share repurchases are useful to you because the company basically does it for you. The alternative is that the company could pay you a higher dividend, but you’d be taxed on that dividend and reinvest it into the company anyway. On the other hand, if you would not reinvest dividends or invest new capital into the company at current prices, then share repurchases are not in alignment with your current outlook, and it would be better for you to receive a higher dividend. Something else to be considered is that when a company uses money for share repurchases when it could be paying a higher dividend instead, the company’s management is limiting your control and increasing theirs. As a shareholder in a company that makes uses of share repurchases, you have to rely on management’s ability to judge whether it’s an appropriate time to repurchase shares, whereas with your dividend, you have complete control over that choice. The flexibility of dividends for shareholders is great, because if allows you to direct your flow of income to where you think the best investment opportunities are at any given time. Share repurchases lack that

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