Shareholders of Telstra Corporation Ltd to receive extra $1.5 billion

Credit: Olivia Wilson

Telecommunications giant Telstra Corporation Ltd (ASX: TLS) has vowed to return $1.5 billion to investors, which comes in addition to the group’s normal dividend. The catch is, shareholders have no idea how it will go about doing that.

In an announcement to the market this morning, Telstra said it would fund the capital management initiative with the proceeds from its recently announced sale of Autohome. The company sold its 47.7% stake in the Chinese car website business in April for $2.1 billion, which represented a gain of roughly $1.8 billion for Telstra.

Telstra’s CEO Andrew Penn said: “I am pleased that we are able to confirm such a significant capital management program as the result of active management of our investment portfolio. Given our recent announcement of the sale of Autohome shares, we believed it was important to provide the market with further information about how we intend to use those funds.”

What the company didn’t tell shareholders, however, was the exact nature, amount, and timing of the initiative (although it did say it would be sometime in the first-half of the 2017 financial year). The remaining details will be announced at the group’s full-year results presentation on 11 August 2016 – a 101-day wait for investors.

What we do know, however, is that however Telstra chooses to return the capital to shareholders, it will be in addition to its normal fully franked dividend.

That could mean a special dividend or a share buyback programme, although analysts appear to favour the likelihood of a buyback due to Telstra’s low franking credit balance, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. The telco had $197 million of franking credits it can distribute to shareholders as at 31 December 2015.

As for the remainder of the proceeds from the Autohome sale, Telstra will retain that capital to maintain flexibility to invest in its future growth ambitions. Telstra’s shares rose 0.9% to $5.41 following the announcement.

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Motley Fool contributor Ryan Newman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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