Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday denounced the “cynicism” of some “big companies” taking advantage of record profits to buy back their own shares and called on the government to work on an “exceptional contribution” so that “workers can benefit” from this money.
"There is still a bit of cynicism at work, when you have big companies that are making such exceptional revenues that they end up using that money to buy back their own shares," said the head of the State on TF1 and France 2. "We have to find the right technique", he continued, ruling out the solution of a taxation of superprofits, as "we did on energy companies".
French CAC 40 companies generated more than 142 billion euros in cumulative profits in 2022 thanks to luxury and energy records, benefiting from inflation and the energy crisis, which heralds a banner year for shareholders. In addition to paying dividends, more and more of them are choosing to buy back their own shares to support the stock market price.
Banks that are particularly generous with their shareholders
Already in 2022, CAC 40 companies bought back 23.7 billion euros in shares, according to the financial letter Vernimmen. TotalEnergies expects to shell out two billion dollars in the first quarter of 2023 for share buybacks, which is as much as the group paid in superprofits tax to the European Union and the United Kingdom.
The automotive group Stellantis wants to buy back 1.5 billion shares and pay 4.2 billion euros in dividends, while paying 2 billion in bonuses for its employees. French banks have also been particularly generous with their shareholders.
BNP Paribas wants to devote 5 billion euros to a share buyback program, i.e. half of its record profit of more than 10 billion euros in 2022. Societe Generale has decided to allocate the equivalent of 90% of its net profit to its shareholders via a cash dividend and a share buyback program.
The luxury giant LVMH will distribute 400 million euros to its approximately 39,000 French employees, spend up to 1.5 billion euros in share buybacks and pay out some 6 billion euros in dividends to shareholders, including nearly 3 billion go to the family of CEO Bernard Arnault. In the United States, President Joe Biden's 2024 budget includes "a quadrupling of the tax applied to share buybacks".