Wal-Mart Stores plans $15 b more in stock buybacks

Wal-Mart Stores Inc announced $15 billion share buyback programme at its annual meeting on Friday, as the world’s largest retailer faces increasing scrutiny from investors over how it has handled allegations of bribery in its Mexican operations that surfaced a year ago.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc brought the usual star power to its annual shareholder meeting, with “X-Men” and “Les Miserables” star Hugh Jackman hosting and singer John Legend entertaining.

But the festivities took a serious turn as shareholders in the audience stood to make proposals related to safety in Bangladeshi factories, Wal-Mart’s Mexican bribery scandal and executive paychecks.

Facing pressure

The company is facing pressure to increase its oversight of factory conditions abroad following a building collapse in April in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,100 garment workers. The discounter, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, is also under scrutiny for how it treats its workers.

Those problems are happening as Wal-Mart Stores Inc is wrestling with slower sales growth.

Wal-Mart’s annual meeting, at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville’s Bud Walton Arena, attracts thousands of investors and has historically had the air of a giant pep rally. Jackman opened the event by singing a rendition of “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.”

The $15 billion share repurchase programme replaces the current $15 billion share repurchase programme begun in 2011. About $712 million is left under that programme, Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley said.

Wal-Mart is considered an economic bellwether because it accounts for nearly 10 per cent of nonautomotive retail spending in the US.

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