(Bloomberg) -- Alphabet Inc. is defying political taboos with record stock buybacks as mass unemployment and economic uncertainty boosts scrutiny for the long-controversial practice.
S&P 500 companies are set to reduce buybacks by an estimated 50% this year, according to Goldman Sachs. Yet, the Google parent company bought $8.5 billion of its own shares in the first quarter alone. That’s the most of any quarter in the company’s history and quadruple its spending on buybacks at the start of 2019, despite clamping down on other spending such as marketing and hiring.
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“We believe a share repurchase program for us, appropriately sized, is responsible in the current environment based on our capital allocation framework and our cash balance,” Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat said on Tuesday’s conference call. “In the beginning of the year, I indicated that we expected to repurchase shares at a pace at least consistent with the fourth quarter on the remaining authorization, and that remains our view for the second quarter.”
Coronavirus bailout negotiations had sparked a renewed shift in political sentiment against stock repurchases, with stimulus recipients barred from the practice.
Although the technology sector is not a main recipient of relief funding, some firms have suspended or reduced their spending on stock buybacks including Intel Corp., Teradyne Inc. and Manhattan Associates Inc., according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
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