Share buybacks are all the rage among the world's companies, to the delight of many shareholders but not of critics, who say they are lazy, short-sighted and mostly designed to enrich corporate fat cats. Be it adidas and Total in Europe or Cisco and Boeing in the US, big names are rushing to announce such buybacks, which involve using surplus cash to pick up the company's own stock in the open market. Usually the shares are then cancelled, meaning the company's value is spread over fewer shares. Share buybacks are not new, but 2018 portends to be a particularly big year for such operations. According to TrimTabs, an independent research firm in the US, US firms have already announced $226-billion (about R2.7-trillion) in share buybacks since the beginning of the year. A JP Morgan analyst expects $800-billion from companies listed on the S&P500 alone this year, up from $530-million last year, thanks in no small part to tax reforms of US President Donald Trump. Companies, sitting on b...

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