Nestle said strong cash generation would let it accelerate its share buyback program of up to 20 billion Swiss francs ($20.67 billion) by spreading it evenly over three years, instead of backloading it in 2019 and 2020 as initially announced in June.
Nestle shares were up 1 percent at 81.95 Swiss francs by 5.10 a.m. ET and investors were broadly supportive of the plan.
“This is a balance that gives them the ability to stay at work without having the distraction of whether they’ll concede a margin guidance, but at the same time not burden themselves from making the kind of bold investments that are required to deliver long-term value,” said Thomas Russo of Gardner Russo & Gardner, which has a Nestle stake worth more than $1 billion.
Russo, whose firm is based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has been a sizeable shareholder for over 30 years.
The difference between Nestle and other consumer companies that have a higher margin target, Russo said, is that “they have enormous fuel in their tank going forward and others end up running out of gas by virtue of making higher near-term results than Nestle’s.”
ZKB analyst Patrik Schwendimann was also positive.
“We consider the new margin target as reasonable because it leaves room for investment in the future and to reach the unchanged target of mid-single digit sales growth by 2020,” he said in a note.