Once infrequently used, stock buybacks have become the dominant form of corporate payouts in the new century. Hundreds of billions of dollars flow from public companies to their shareholders via share repurchases every year. This literature review presents the main findings from the academic literature on stock buybacks in the United States and around the world. Where appropriate and possible, it compares and contrasts the insights of researchers to the views of practitioners.
There has been much controversy about share repurchases in recent years. On the one hand, proponents of share repurchases say that this payout method provides liquidity and price support, returns excess cash in a flexible way, corrects undervaluation, and conveys information to the market. These aspects of buybacks are also often cited by practitioners as motivations for their share repurchase decisions. Academic research provides evidence that supports this view as well.
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