Walmart gives back – to shareholders that is

Heading into last Friday’s annual meeting, the financial community had high expectations Walmart would allocate additional funds to buy back stock, and the company didn’t disappoint. The $15 billion share repurchase authorization CFO Charles Holley announced replaced an existing $15 billion program approved one year earlier that had dwindled to just $2 billion due to the fact that Walmart was an aggressive purchaser of its own stock during the past 12 months.

“Our purchase of almost $13 billion of Walmart stock since last June is indicative of our strong free cash flow position,” Holley said. “We are pleased to continue our share repurchase program with this new $15 billion authorization.”

Between the $12.9 billion Walmart spent buying its own stock and dividend payments, Holley told those at the meeting the company returned $19.2 billion to shareholders last year. If share repurchase activity continues at the blistering pace set last year the volume of cash returned to shareholders this year could surpass $20 billion since the annual dividend payout was hiked to $1.46 from $1.21 earlier this year. Total dividends paid will be about $5.2 billion with $1.3 billion already spent on dividends during the first quarter.