Comcast, J&J jump on the buyback bandwagon ahead of new taxes

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Comcast, J&J jump on the buyback bandwagon ahead of new taxes © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Comcast NBC logo is shown on a building in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 13, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

(Reuters) -Comcast Corp and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:) on Wednesday unveiled buybacks worth billions of dollars as they joined a rush of U.S. companies seeking to avoid a new tax on such repurchases.

The $430 billion Inflation Reduction Act imposes a 1% tax on buybacks and a minimum 15% tax on corporations from next year.

Comcast (NASDAQ:) doubled its share buyback authorization to $20 billion after increasing it to $10 billion in January, while J&J announced a repurchase program of up to $5 billion.

Wireless carrier T-Mobile US (NASDAQ:) Inc, seeds and pesticides company Corteva (NYSE:) Inc and coffee chain Starbucks (NASDAQ:), as well as a score of smaller companies, have all laid out plans to buy back shares.

While the new tax will encourage companies to pull forward buybacks and increase repurchases in the near term, the weakness in equities markets is also a major reason, said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley.

“When valuations are low and markets are down, companies tend to buy back their shares. So it’s a reflection of where markets are,” Hogan said.

The benchmark has declined nearly 18% this year as runaway inflation spurs super-sized rate hikes from the Federal Reserve.

When the S&P 500 posted its biggest quarterly loss in two years in the first three months of 2022, buybacks hit a record $281 billion, according to S&P analyst Howard Silverblatt.

Comcast’s shares were up 1.5%, while Johnson & Johnson’s stock gained 1.7% in early trading.

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