Home Depot board approves $15 billion stock buyback

CEO Decker to take on chairman role in late September

The board of Home Depot, flush with sales and profit amid the pandemic, has approved a $15 billion buyback of its stock as a way to use “excess cash,” company officials said.

The Smyrna-based retail giant earlier this week reported $43.8 billion in sales and net earnings of $5.2 billion in its second fiscal quarter, which ended July 31. A company filing said Home Depot finished the quarter with $1.3 billion in cash on hand.

Stock buybacks typically bolster the price of shares. Repurchases have sometimes been criticized for being focused on increasing wealth for shareholders — including top executives — while not improving the company’s productivity, profitability or the compensation for workers.

However, the purchases are consistent with the retail giant’s longstanding approach to handling its income, which already includes higher pay, according to Margaret Smith, a spokeswoman for the company.

Home Depot did not say how long it would take to deploy the $15 billion in future buybacks.

“Our overall capital allocation principles have remained consistent for over a decade,” she said. “We invest in the business, pay our dividend and return excess cash to shareholder in the form of share repurchases.”

Home Depot already spends money on operations and technology with the goal of growing faster than the overall home repair market, and the buyback would only use money left over from those goals, Smith said.

Home Depot stock was trading at about $324 a share in the early afternoon Friday.

In the past year, the stock hit a high of more than $416 in late December, but slid through most of the spring to hit a 52-week low just below $270 in June.

The company, the largest firm based in Georgia, has 2,316 stores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, several U.S. territories, Canada and Mexico.

Home Depot has about 500,000 employees.

In other action, the board named Ted Decker as chairman, effective October 1. Decker has been chief executive and president since earlier this year, filling the position that had been occupied by Craig Menear.

Menear, Decker’s predecessor as CEO, had remained chairman of the board, but he will leave that role at the end of the month.

The board also approved a cash dividend for the current quarter of $1.90 a share. The dividend will be paid to shareholders of record at the close of business Sept. 1, officials said.

This is the 142nd consecutive quarter the company has paid a cash dividend.