Accelerated share repurchases (ASRs) represent an important recent innovation in repurchase methods. Although executives often mention signaling undervaluation as a motivation for ASRs, managing earnings per share (EPS) has been argued as a key alternative motivation in the financial press. This paper aims to investigate whether ASRs are driven by managerial opportunism (i.e. managing EPS) or managerial optimism (i.e. signaling undervaluation) and whether stock market participants see through these motives.
The sample consists of 293 ASRs conducted between 2004 and 2011. Firms suspected of using ASRs to manage EPS (EPS-suspect firms) were identified by examining actual reported EPS, as-if EPS (i.e. EPS that would have been reported in the absence of an ASR), and analysts’ consensus EPS forecasts. A logistic regression of EPS-suspect versus non-EPS-suspect ASR transactions was performed. Analysts’ reactions to ASR announcements and investors’ reactions to post-ASR earnings announcements were examined. Changes in post-ASR operating performance were also analyzed.
Twenty-nine per cent of ASR firms (EPS-suspect firms) would have missed the consensus EPS forecasts had they not implemented the repurchase. Managerial incentives – securing bonuses and maintaining reputation by avoiding EPS misses – appear to lie behind this opportunistic use of ASRs. Upward revision observed in analysts’ EPS forecasts upon the announcement of ASRs is short-lived, indirectly facilitating firms’ use of ASRs to meet or beat consensus forecasts. Investors, however, are not fooled by managers’ use of ASRs as an earnings management device. Unlike EPS-suspect firms, non-EPS-suspect firms exhibit positive abnormal operating performance during the post-ASR period, suggesting that these firms use ASRs as a signaling device rather than as an earnings management device.
ASRs can be used by managers to signal better future performance to investors. However, managers who intend to do so should carefully consider the timing of an ASR. Initiating an ASR when the company is facing the risk of missing analysts’ EPS forecasts may be interpreted as the ASR being motivated by EPS management concerns rather than signaling, diminishing the credibility of a positive signal intended to be conveyed through the ASR. Further, when considering payout policy and executive compensation decisions, corporate boards need to be cognizant of managers’ incentives for undertaking ASRs. The use of ASRs opportunistically to boost EPS is prevalent, and this action is followed by poor performance.
A number of novel results are documented using tests that are methodologically distinct from those used in related previous research. Notably, this is the first study to distinguish between EPS-suspect and non-EPS-suspect ASR firms and examine the determinants as well as consequences of using ASRs as an earnings management versus signaling device. One out of every four ASR firms are EPS-suspects. Analysts react to ASR announcements by only temporarily increasing their short-term EPS forecasts. Investors see through managers’ use of ASRs as an earnings management device. While ASRs are prone to managerial opportunism, a large number of firms use ASRs to communicate favorable information about their future operating performance to investors.
This paper is based on my dissertation completed at the University of Pittsburgh. I acknowledge the research support from Northeastern University, where I was a visiting assistant professor between 2012 and 2014. I thank the review team for their helpful comments and suggestions. I am also grateful to Leonce Bargeron, Sean Cleary, Diane Denis, Mei Feng, Rani Hoitash, Udi Hoitash, Lisa Kutcher, Ken Lehn, Sara Moeller, Karsten Nohtse, Shawn Thomas, and seminar participants at the 2011 American Accounting Association meetings, 2011 Eastern Finance Association meetings, 2010 Financial Management Association meetings, Bentley University, Bilkent University, Northeastern University, Sabanci University, and Suffolk University for their feedback.
Kurt, A.C. (2018), "Managing EPS and signaling undervaluation as a motivation for repurchases: The case of accelerated share repurchases", Review of Accounting and Finance, Vol. 17 No. 4, pp. 453-481. https://doi.org/10.1108/RAF-05-2017-0102Download as .RIS
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