Listed firms buy back 258m shares amid falling prices

Companies have taken advantage of lower stock prices to dramatically step up share buybacks, according to data from the Singapore Exchange (SGX).

About 258.3 million shares worth $314.1 million were snapped up by 46 listed firms from Sept 1 to 18.

That far surpassed purchases in the same period a year earlier when 44.6 million shares worth $37.2 million were bought.

The big spenders were Sinarmas Land, Wilmar International, Global Logistic Properties, CapitaLand and DBS Group.

"Sectors like commodities and property aren't doing well. Companies may be trying to support share prices by reducing the amount of free float in the market," IG market strategist Bernard Aw said.

"Buybacks are also a way to inject confidence in the stock."

Buybacks occur when a firm repurchases shares from investors on the open market and then converts them into treasury shares, which means they are no longer categorised as outstanding stock.

The process serves a number of purposes, including boosting earnings per share or return on equity as buybacks reduce the number of outstanding shares in the market, which means the value of each existing share increases.

Some firms may issue the shares to management and staff as part of remuneration.

Sinarmas Land spent $88.5 million to buy back 149.8 million shares, representing 4.92 per cent of its issued shares (excluding treasury shares) as at the date of its share buyback mandate on April 24. Its shares closed at 59 cents, down 1.7 per cent, or one cent, yesterday.

Wilmar bought 22.4 million shares for $59.9 million in the first 18 days of this month.

The palm oil processor has bought nearly 61 million shares since it exercised its buyback mandate on April 24. Its shares closed at $2.66, up 0.4 per cent, or one cent.

Global Logistic snapped up nearly 26 million shares for $53.3 million. Its shares closed at $2.05, up nearly 2 per cent, or four cents.

CapitaLand spent $32.1 million to buy back 11.4 million shares. Its shares closed at $2.80, up 0.7 per cent, or two cents.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2015, with the headline 'Listed firms buy back 258m shares amid falling prices'. Print Edition | Subscribe