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Why Harley-Davidson Just Doubled Share Buybacks, Raises Dividend

By Rich Smith - Feb 20, 2020 at 12:24PM

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In theory at least, Harley could buy back 12% of its shares in under 12 months.

A recent poll of consumers' "emotional connection" to brands -- the Brand Intimacy 2020 Study conducted by market researcher MBLM -- shows that Harley-Davidson's (HOG 1.01%) popularity has dropped from sixth place to 30th place among consumers. But at least Harley is taking steps to remain popular with investors.  

Last night after close of trading, America's most famous motorcycle-maker announced that it will increase the size of its quarterly dividend by 1.3%, from $0.375 to $0.38 per share. The new payout works out to $1.52 per year which, when compared to Harley's stock price of $35.80, works out to about a 4.2% annual dividend -- more than twice the average payout among S&P 500 stocks.  

Row of parked motorcycles

Image source: Getty Images.

Additionally, Harley announced that it will more than double the size of its announced share buybacks. With 8.2 million shares still remaining from its share buyback authorization announced in February 2018, Harley will add a new authorization to repurchase 10 million shares (making the new authorization 18.2 million shares in total).

Harley currently has 154.3 million shares outstanding, which means that in theory at least, the company could buy back roughly 11.8% of its shares over time.

How likely is that, and how long would it take to happen? At last report, Harley-Davidson was generating $687 million in annual free cash flow. Divided by the stock's currently cheap stock price -- down 6% from a year ago -- Harley-Davidson has enough cash coming in the door to permit it to buy more than 19 million shares at this rate, completing its buyback in under a year.

As of 12:25 p.m. EST, Harley-Davidson stock is up 2.3% this morning in response to the news.

Rich Smith has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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