Retirees benefit as Metcash buy-back boosts income and total returns
Today (Monday 28 June), Metcash announced an off-market buy-back of up to $175 million.
Off-market buy-backs are tax-effective mechanisms for returning franking credits to shareholders who most value them. The buy-back will have an 85 cent 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 Metcash on 25 June of $3.65 – see Chart 1 below.
Using $3.65 as a guide (the actual price used for the buy-back will be the volume-weighted average price of Metcash shares in the five trading days up to and including August 13, 2021) the maximum 14% discount would equate to a $3.14 buy-back price. With the capital component being 85 cents, the other $2.29 would represent a fully franked dividend, which would have a 98 cent franking credit attached.
For a tax-exempt Australian investor, we estimate the buy-back at a 14% discount would be worth approximately $4.12 (disregarding the time value of money), representing about 47 cents or 13% more than the market price of Metcash today, but please note that the buy-back is expected to be completed on 16 August, 2021, based on volume weighted prices from the previous week.
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 buy-back 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 buy-back 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. The scale-back may also not be as high as it has been for other recent buy-backs.
So whilst we expect the buy-back 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.
Plato expects to tender all Metcash shares owned by the Plato Australian Shares Income Fund into the buy-back as this fund is managed from the perspective of tax-exempt Australian investors. This means that investors in both the Plato Australian Shares Income Fund and Plato Income Maximiser Limited (ASX: PL8) should benefit from the Metcash buy-back. We believe opportunities such as this Metcash buy-back 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 would suggest individual investors should seek professional tax advice based on their individual tax circumstances.
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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.