NEW YORK: Members of the Walton family have sold 16.7 million shares of Walmart Inc this year as they try to keep their stake in the world’s biggest retailer from ballooning amid the company’s stock buybacks.
The Walton Family Holdings Trust sold US$430mil (RM1.77bil) worth over the past week, taking their total sales to almost US$2.1bil (RM8.64bil) since Jan 1, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
The notifications were filed on behalf of second-generation family members Alice, Rob and Jim Walton.
The family owns about half of the retailer’s outstanding shares through the trust and their main investment vehicle, Walton Enterprises.
The trust has been their main vehicle for share sales in recent years.
They shifted 194 million shares to it in 2015 – almost all of which they subsequently sold – and moved 415 million more last year.
The recent sales “are consistent with the family’s effort to maintain an appropriate balance of family and non-family ownership of Walmart by offsetting possible increases in its ownership percentage over time and helping fund charitable contributions, ” said Randy Hargrove, a spokesman for the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company.
Walmart has bought back US$37.4bil (RM153.9bil) of shares since it started a repurchasing programme in 2015, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
During that time, the stock has risen 64%.
That’s helped lift the family’s combined fortune to US$216bil (RM888.84bil), according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
About three-quarters of this is tied to Walmart stock.
The buybacks have helped shrink the number of Walmart’s outstanding shares by 13%, meaning the Waltons’ stake would have crept over 50% without them selling.
Walton Enterprises hasn’t been acquiring common stock, Hargrove said.
United States public company insiders offloaded shares worth US$29.4bil (RM120.98bil) this year through May, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Among those stepping up sales are some of world’s richest corporate insiders.
Jeff Bezos has cashed in US$6.7bil (RM27.57bil) of Amazon.com Inc stock this year.
Leslie Wexner, meanwhile, has sold US$500mil (RM2.06bil) worth of L Brands Inc shares.
Walmart is targeting about US$14bil (RM57bil) in capital expenditures in its current fiscal year, up from a rate of US$10bil (RM41bil) to US$11bil (RM45bil) during the past five years, as it invests further in automation, supply chain and its digital presence to serve shoppers in new ways.
Like many big-box retailers, it has looked to capitalise on strong demand for groceries and other essentials during the pandemic by rolling out curbside pickup at many of its locations and investing in automation to help fulfill more orders, faster.
It introduced a new membership programme last year called Walmart+, which offers unlimited free delivery from stores, among other benefits.
It costs US$98 (RM403) a year or US$12.95 (RM53.29) a month.
The big-box retailer reported strong sales over the 2020 holiday period, fuelled in part by a 69% jump in US e-commerce sales,
The company has also said it would raise pay for 425, 000 US workers to at least US$13 (RM53.49) an hour soon. ― Bloomberg