How investors can cash in on the CBA buyback

Peter Gardner

Plato Investment Management

As we predicted, Commonwealth Bank (ASX: CBA) has today announced an off-market buy-back, with the size – at $6 billion - slightly exceeding our expectation of $5 billion.

Off-market buybacks are a tax-effective mechanism for returning franking credits to shareholders who most value them. 

The buyback will have a $21.66 capital component, with the balance being a fully franked dividend. The buy-back will be based on a tender, with investors tendering to sell shares at a discount of between 10% to 14% below market price. 

Shareholders who don’t participate will still benefit from the buy-back to the extent that shares are effectively bought back at a cash discount to market price. This compares with on-market buybacks, where companies buy back stock at market price.

We have analysed the value of the buy-back for tax-exempt investors such as charities, foundations, pension phase superannuation and individuals below the income tax threshold using the market price of Commonwealth Bank on 10 August of $106.56 (see the chart below).

Using $106.56 as a guide (the actual price used for the buyback will be the volume-weighted average price of Commonwealth Bank shares in the five trading days up to and including October 1, 2021) the maximum 14% discount would equate to a $91.64 buy-back price. 

With the capital component being $21.66, the other $69.98 would represent a fully franked dividend, which would have a $29.99 franking credit attached. 

For a tax-exempt Australian investor, we estimate the buy-back at a 14% discount would be worth approximately $121.63 (disregarding the time value of money), representing about $15.07 or 14% more than the market price of Commonwealth Bank today, but please note that the buy-back is expected to be completed on October 4, 2021, based on volume-weighted prices from the previous week.

Estimated value of CBA's buy-back for tax-exempt investors

Source: Plato, Commonwealth Bank buy-back announcement 11 August 2021.

The value of the buy-back for other investors will depend on the tax situation of each investor. 

At current prices, we would expect the buyback to be of marginal value for 15% tax rate Australian investors. The precise value will be determined by investor circumstances, the deemed capital value that the ATO will issue after the close of the buyback and the final buy-back price relative to the closing market price.

Given that we estimate the buyback is valuable for just tax-exempt Australian investors at the maximum discount rate, we expect the final buy-back price to be possibly set at below the maximum 14% discount to market price and the scale-back may be lower than for other recent buy-backs. 

So, while we expect the buyback to not be as valuable for tax-exempt Australian investors as previous buy-backs (which have often been worth 20% for every share successfully tendered), a lower scale-back will potentially increase the overall value of the buy-back at the portfolio level.

We believe opportunities such as this Commonwealth Bank buyback highlight the importance of tax-exempt investors like pension phase superannuants having their investments managed from their tax perspective.

Please note that this analysis depends very much on the particular tax status of the investor. We suggest individual investors seek professional tax advice based on their individual tax circumstances.

Plato takes advantage of tax-effective opportunities, such as off-market buybacks, to maximise income for retirees and other low-tax Australian investors. Learn more about our strategies on the Plato Investment Management website

Managed Fund
Plato Australian Shares Income Fund
Australian Shares
The information contained in this article is for information purposes only. Plato Investment Management Limited ABN 77 120 730 136 (‘Plato’) AFSL 504616.   Any opinions or forecasts reflect the judgment and assumptions of Plato and its representatives on the basis of information at the date of publication and may later change without notice. Any projections contained in this article are estimates only and may not be realised in the future.  The information is not intended as a securities recommendation or statement of opinion intended to influence a person or persons in making a decision in relation to investment. This article is for general information only. It has been prepared without taking account of any person’s objectives, financial situation or needs. Any persons relying on this information should obtain professional advice relevant to their particular circumstances, needs and investment objectives.

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Peter Gardner
Senior Portfolio Manager
Plato Investment Management

Peter is a Senior Portfolio Manager and manages the Plato Australian Shares Income Fund. He is a founder of Plato and has 15 years investment experience. Peter received 1st Class Honours and a PhD from UNSW.

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