Wal-Mart is known as one of the world’s leading discount retail chains. Much of its profits and success depends on its stock prices. This paper will examine three different scenarios in relation to the organizations initiative to repurchase its own stock in the market in order to retire it. There are three potential outcomes that the organization can encounter including: 1) the stock price goes down because the balance between debt and equity is distributed thus making interest rates on new debt rise. 2) The stock price is not affected because of the benefit of less shareholders is equal to the negative factor of not having the liquidity. 3) The stock price goes up because there are fewer shares outstanding. To begin with, the paper will examine the history of Wal-Mart to gain a further understanding of where the organization came from and where it is heading in the future. Sam Walton opened the first Wal-Mart in 1962 in Bentonville, Arkansas. It was one of the first of its kind- the discount retailer.
Walton worked closely with his vendors to keep his prices competitive. Eventually, Walton was able to strike deals due to buying in bulk keeping his prices low. Walton then expanded his retail chain in the 1980’s to include warehouse buying by developing Sam’s Club. Since its initial opening in the 1960’s, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club have gone global and expanded the discount chains overseas in areas such as Asia, Mexico, Canada, and South America. In 2008 there were over 590 Sam’s Club locations in the US and 100 internationally. In 2006, Wal-Mart had nearly 7000 locations worldwide (Wal-Mart, 2010).
Wal-Mart released their annual report for 2009 and they could not be more proud of the performance that Wal-Mart has done for the fiscal year. The Wal-Mart teams from around the globe have challenged a difficult economy in the retail market, yet Wal-Mart reported net sales of more than $405 billion for the year with the international sales exceeding $100 billion. This is the first time in the company history where the international sales have hit such epic proportions. Wal-Mart is still looking to make things better especially to their stockholders. The initiative that the management is currently concentrating is the retirement of some of the outstanding stock.
Previously the board of directors has authorized management to repurchase Wal-Mart’s stock in the open market but with many restrictions. The latest initiative is driven by the board’s authorization to repurchase $15,000,000 worth of stock in order to retire it. There is no time expiration to this authorization and management will be looking for the right conditions to repurchase the stock.
Possible Outcome #1
Debt to equity gives the proportion of the amount of assets that is financed by debt versus shareholder’s equity. A debt to equity measures the leverage of a company. Currently, Wal-Mart’s debt to equity ratio is 0.52 or 52%. Basically, meaning that 52% of Wal-Mart’s operations are financed through debt and as a result must pay interest on this financing that it is receiving. If the organization’s assets can generate a greater return that it would without the debt being incurred, the debt cost would make no sense. On the other hand if interest is low enough and at the right proportion debt can actually lower the total cost of capital.
Management’s initiative to repurchase the stock is likely to affect the balance between the amount of equity and the amount of debt on Wal-Mart’s statements. If one examines the annual report of Wal-Mart, it is noticeable that the amount of new debt is very close to the amount spent on repurchasing stock. It is apparent from this that Wal-Mart is shifting its debt ratio. Because Wal-Mart’s cost of debt has been quite low, it is possible that additional debt may actually increase the cost of future debt. If investors perceive that this is the most likely outcome, then the outcome of management’s initiative to repurchase stock will actually reduce the price of Wal-Mart’s stock. Therefore, first possible outcome is that Wal-Mart’s stock will decline in price if management repurchases stock on the open market.
Possible Outcome #2
Another possible outcome for Wal-Mart is that the stock price may go up due to this program. According to the initiative, on February of 2009 Wal-Mart reactivated the repurchase of their shares. At that time, there was five billion dollars left in the initiative to repurchase stock. If the conditions are right, according to the book value the stock price should go up after the repurchase. After the repurchase of the stock, there will be less common shares outstanding and therefore the total assets minus the total liabilities divided by now a lower number of shares will result in a higher price per share. Investors value the stock based on the size of future cash flows from the company. Another indicator that the stock will go up is the size of the income per share. According to Wal-Mart’s statements, in 2005 the net income per share was $2.41, in 2006 that number went up to $2.68, in 2007 it went up again to $2.71, in 2008 it went up to $3.13 and in 2009 to $3.39 (Wal-Mart, 2009).
Another interesting fact that may contribute to a rise in price of the stock as a result of a repurchase is to look at the gain for the remaining stockholders from a different view (that may be a little unorthodox). In 2005, before the repurchasing the net income was $10,267 and in 2009 after the repurchasing it was $13,400, which is an increase of 30.5%. One may say that the stock price went up because of this factor alone. Nevertheless, if one also looks by how much “Net Income Per share of common stock” went up he will find that in 2005 it was $2.41 and in 2009 it was $3.39, which is an increase of 40.66%. It is interesting to see that an increase of 30.5% in net income resulted in an increase of 40.66% in the income per share over the same time period. This amplified effect must be the result of the repurchase program, which would likely cause price rise in the stock when additional repurchase happens.
Possible Outcome #3
Both outcome #1 and outcome #2 have valid points. It is true that investors value future cash flows. The theory in outcome #2 was built on the fact that investors would value the stock more because more net income would be per share. On the other hand, outcome #1 based its theory on the fact that if the debt ratio is disturbed interest cost will rise and future cash flows can decline, which would cause investors to value the stock less. Possible outcome #3 is that both outcome #1 and #2 will happen offsetting each other’s affect. If both would offset each other the price of the stock would not be affected by the initiative. Some investors would value the fact that there are less outstanding shares and would begin entering a long position. On the other hand, other investors would worry that outcome number #1 will occur and would take the short position. It is possible that the price would remain relatively the same because of this.
The Most Likely Outcome
Currently, Wal-Mart’s debt ratio is reasonable and most analysts have a strong buy or a buy recommendations for Wal-Mart. Considering the vast size of Wal-Mart’s balance sheet the size of the initiative (15,000,000) will not affect the debt ratio significantly. Because the debt ratio will not be affected significantly outcome number one cannot have a very strong affect. On the other hand, when Wal-Mart repurchases its stock it not only changes the balance between debt and equity but it also sends out a message. Psychologically, repurchasing its stock, Wal-Mart is sending out a message that management believes in Wal-Mart’s future success and thus believes that should there be a need Wal-Mart can reissue share at a higher price than at which they where repurchased. Combining the affect of the increased future cash flows for shareholder and the psychological affect it is most likely that outcome #2 will occur; it is likely that the price of stock will rise due to management’s initiative to repurchase Wal-Mart’s stock.
As one can see from this example, any initiative that management takes can have important outcomes. It is also often possible for the outcomes to be very different from what management intended. It is important that management considers each outcome and the probability that it will occur. In this case, management has repurchased stock in the past and can therefore look at what happened then and use that as historic data to try and draw conclusions about what will happen after this repurchase.
Wal-Mart. (2010). Walmartstores.com: History Timeline. Retrieved from http://walmartstores.com/AboutUs/7603.aspx
Wal-Mart (2009) Annual Report. Retrieved on July 29, 2010 from http://www.annualreports.com/HostedData/AnnualReports/PDFArchive/wmt2009.pdf