Less than two weeks after reporting its 16th consecutive quarter of declining revenue, computing giant International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM) on Tuesday announced an 8 percent increase in its cash dividend, raising its quarterly payout to shareholders to $1.40 per share from $1.30 per share.
Marking the company’s 21st year in a row of increasing dividends, the latest capital move pushes IBM further to the outer limits of how much of its cash a corporation can conceivably funnel to shareholders.
Over the past five years, IBM has given far more cash back to investors than it has made in profits. Since 2011, the company’s combined share repurchases and dividends have amounted to an average of 137 percent of net income.
For comparison, companies in the broader S&P 500 dispensed some 90 percent of their earnings to shareholder payouts between 2003 and 2012, according to University of Massachusetts Lowell economics professor William Lazonick.
IBM’s steady profit decline has come as the company has struggled to adapt to a changing digital landscape dominated by growth in mobile and cloud computing. Rivals like Amazon have snatched up market opportunities that would have once been a shoe-in for the 105-year-old IBM.
At the same time, IBM has pursued shareholder-friendly strategies, originally defined under its “Roadmap 2015” program, which dedicated the company to boosting earnings-per-share numbers, largely through multibillion-dollar share buyback programs. Since 2000, IBM has spent more than $100 billion buying back its own shares.
“IBM is transforming its business into a cognitive solutions and cloud platform company,” IBM’s chief executive Ginni Rometty said in a statement accompanying the dividend increase. “Our strong profit and cash-flow performance allow us to make the investments required to drive this transformation, while continuing to return significant capital to shareholders.”
In the first quarter of 2016, IBM devoted $2.2 billion to dividends and stock buybacks, on reported net income of $2 billion. At the end of March, IBM still had $4.7 billion left in its board-authorized share repurchase program.
Earlier this year IBM began a round of layoffs that is expected to affect thousands of employees. The trade publication IEEE Spectrum reported that the cuts could affect up to a third of IBM’s U.S. employees, though the company has disputed the figure.
Shares in the company have added 8.2 percent from the start of the year.