Treasury Stock – All You Need to Know

Treasury Stock, often referred to as “company-owned shares,” represents the portion of shares a company owns. In the Indian corporate sector, understanding the concept of Treasury Share is essential for investors as it impacts the company’s financial health and stock performance.

What Is a Treasury Stock?

Treasury Stock refers to the shares a corporation has bought back from its shareholders but has not retired. Essentially, these shares were once part of the company’s outstanding stock but are now held by the company itself. Treasury shares don’t carry voting rights nor entitle the holder to dividends. They are also excluded from the earnings per share (EPS) calculation.

Why Do Companies Buy Back Shares?

Companies usually buy back shares for a variety of reasons. One of the most common reason is to increase shareholder value. By reducing the number of shares in circulation, the company aims to increase the value of the remaining shares.

Another reason could be to improve financial ratios like earnings per share (EPS), which, in turn, can make the stock more appealing to investors.

How Are They Accounted For?

In financial accounting, treasury stocks are recorded as a contra account, reducing the total shareholders’ equity. In India, the Companies Act and SEBI regulations govern the buyback and holding of treasury shares, setting forth the legal framework within which companies must operate.

Implications for Investors

For investors, treasury stock can be both an opportunity and a red flag. On one hand, share buybacks usually lead to a short-term increase in share price, benefiting existing shareholders.

On the other hand, excessive buybacks could indicate that the company is not efficiently utilising its capital for growth or investment.

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Regulatory Framework in India

In India, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has set regulations that companies must follow for share buybacks. These regulations include the method and conditions for buyback and disclosure requirements to ensure transparency.

How Do Treasury Stocks Work?

Treasury Stocks are the shares that a company buys back from its existing shareholders. Once bought back, these shares are kept in the company’s treasury to be reissued later or permanently retired.

The Buyback Process

When a company buys back its shares, it has several options. One common method is through the open market, where the company purchases shares just like any other investor would.

Alternatively, a company can offer a fixed price to shareholders through a tender offer.

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Accounting Aspects

From an accounting perspective, treasury stocks are recorded as a contra-equity account on the balance sheet. This means that they reduce the overall shareholders’ equity .

In India, accounting for treasury shares is governed by the Companies Act and relevant accounting standards, which ensure that these transactions are transparent and in line with international norms.

Understanding how treasury shares work is critical for both investors and corporate executives. For investors, the buyback often leads to an increase in share value, at least in the short term.

It provides a mechanism for companies to improve financial ratios and manage excess capital. However, the strategy must be executed carefully, considering regulatory norms and the long-term impact on the company’s balance sheet and market reputation.

Why do Companies Keep Treasury Shares?

Companies opt to keep treasury shares for many reasons, each serving a different aspect of the company’s financial strategy or operational needs.

Enhancing Shareholder Value

One of the primary reasons is to enhance shareholder value. By reducing the number of outstanding shares, each share’s value often increases, making the company more attractive to investors.

Capital Structure Optimisation

Companies also use treasury shares to optimise their capital structure. By buying back shares, they can change the debt-to-equity ratio, which can, in turn, impact the company’s borrowing costs and credit ratings.

Employee Compensation

Treasury shares can be used in employee stock option plans. Companies can reissue these shares to employees as compensation, aligning the interests of the employees and shareholders.

Defensive Measure

Keeping treasury shares can also serve as a defensive measure against hostile takeovers. By buying back its shares, a company can reduce the number of shares available for acquisition, making it more challenging for another entity to gain control.

Flexibility for Future Opportunities

Holding treasury shares gives a company the flexibility to quickly seize future opportunities like acquisitions or partnerships without issuing new shares, which could dilute the value for existing shareholders.

Regulatory Compliance

In India, buybacks and the subsequent holding of treasury shares are governed by SEBI regulations and the Companies Act. These rules ensure that the process is transparent and that minority shareholders are protected.

Purpose of Treasury Stocks

The acquisition and holding of Treasury Stocks serve multiple objectives in a company’s financial strategy. While the common perception is that they are primarily used for enhancing shareholder value, the purposes are often far more nuanced.

Strategic Reserves

Treasury Stocks can act as a strategic reserve for companies. They can be reissued in the market when the company needs to raise capital, thus providing financial flexibility.

Employee Benefits

Companies can use treasury shares in their employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs). This aligns the employees’ goals with the company’s and can serve as an attractive non-cash incentive.

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Financial Ratios

By reducing the number of outstanding shares through buybacks, companies can improve financial ratios like Earnings Per Share (EPS), making the company more appealing to investors.

Defensive Strategy

In a hostile takeover attempt, treasury stocks can act as a buffer. They can be reissued to a friendly third party, making the takeover more difficult.

Limitations of Treasury Stocks

Capital Utilisation

Holding treasury stocks means that the capital used for buying back shares is not used for growth or investment opportunities, which could offer higher returns.

No Voting Rights or Dividends

Treasury Stocks don’t carry voting rights and are not entitled to dividends. This essentially makes them non-contributing assets on the company’s balance sheet.

Market Perception

Excessive buybacks can sometimes send a negative signal to the market, indicating that the company doesn’t have better investment opportunities or is trying to inflate share prices artificially.

Regulatory Constraints

In India, SEBI regulations impose several constraints on the buyback process, including the amount that can be bought back and the manner of buyback, thereby limiting flexibility.

How Do Companies Buyback Stocks?

Companies can buy back stocks through various methods. One of the most straightforward ways is through open-market purchases, where the company buys its own shares just like any other investor.

Another common method is a tender offer, where the company offers to buy back shares at a fixed price, usually at a premium over the current market price, for a specified period.

Regulatory Framework

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) lays down strict rules for the stock buyback process in India. These rules specify the maximum amount that can be used for the buyback, the maximum price at which shares can be bought, and the minimum period before another buyback can be initiated.

Financing the Buyback

Companies need to be financially prepared for a buyback. They either use their cash reserves or may even opt for external financing. A well-planned buyback strategy can serve multiple purposes—be it enhancing shareholder value, optimising capital structure, or fending off hostile takeovers. However, the company must adhere to regulatory guidelines to ensure transparency and fairness.

What is the Difference Between a Stock and a Treasury Stock?

A stock represents ownership in a company, conferring voting rights and often paying dividends to the shareholder. In contrast, treasury stock is a share that a company has bought back from the market and is holding in its treasury.

While they are essentially the same asset, their role and the rights they confer are very different.

Comparison Table

Feature Stock Treasury Stock

Ownership

Held by external shareholders

Held by the company itself

Voting Rights

Yes

No

Dividends

Usually, yes

No

Included in EPS

Yes

No

Financial Statements

Reflected in market capitalisation

Reflected as a contra-equity

Regulatory Framework

SEBI, Stock Exchanges

SEBI, Companies Act

Wrapping Up

Treasury stocks play a multifaceted role in a company’s financial landscape. Whether it’s enhancing shareholder value, serving as a defence mechanism, or being used for employee benefits, they are a potent tool in corporate finance.

However, it’s essential to understand their limitations and regulatory constraints, especially in India, where SEBI guidelines strictly govern buybacks. For investors and corporate leaders alike, a nuanced understanding of treasury shares can offer a strategic edge in navigating the complex world of finance.



Frequently Asked Questions

Treasury stock is not considered an asset; rather, it is a contra-equity item. This means it reduces the shareholders’ equity on a company’s balance sheet.

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