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上市公司钱袋满满,该怎么花?

面对这汹涌的现金浪潮,各大公司该如何应对?

对于美国各大公司来说,自由现金流即将如潮水般涌来。由于特朗普的新税法——《减税与就业法案》的出台,我们预计美国各大公司在未来5年中的余富现金将超过2.6万亿美元。这些现金主要来自于以下三个部分:回流美国的海外现金、未来国外收益以及美国本土利润税赋的降低。关键问题在于:面对这汹涌的现金浪潮,各大公司该如何应对?

多年来,众多上市公司的首席执行官一直都在抱怨:分析师和激进股东给他们施加了不少压力,迫使他们专注于短期利润而不是长期增长。如今,每一位首席执行官都有一个绝佳的机会来大展身手。

首席执行官可通过两种途径来应对现金流的激增。他们可以通过增加派息和股票回购,提升股东的短期回报,或通过投资工厂、人力、研发和技术收购来促进长期增长。

出于对其公信力和美国经济的考虑,我们敦促首席执行官们投资长期增长,而不是像2004年那样回购股票。

2004年,国会通过的法案提供了一个“免税期”,对美国公司汇回国内的海外利润征收5.25%的税。结果,近1000家符合这一规定的美国公司决定将3620亿美元的国外利润汇回美国。然后,这些公司大多都将这些资金用于回购股票,因而减少了公司在外流通股票的数量,并推高了每股收益。

受新税法影响,因海外利润回流而导致的现金流增量可能会大幅增加,在未来5年内将超过1万亿美元。美国公司滞留海外的利润一直在大幅增长,从2004年的约6000亿美元增至2017年的2.5万亿美元。2004年,只有汇回美国的海外利润才会被征收利润回流税。作为对比,新税法会对所有滞留海外的利润征收回流税,因此这些利润回流美国时将不再有任何的额外税收成本。

在未来5年内,美国公司滞留国外的利润总计将超过2万亿美元。根据新税法,这些未来利润可能在回流美国时无需支付任何额外的美国企业所得税。我们估计,美国公司可能会合理地调拨其中的一半,也就是1万亿美元,在美国进行资本投资。

与此同时,如企业所得税由之前的35%变为21%,美国公司的税后国内利润将大幅增长。该税收削减举措在未来5年内将为企业税后利润带来约6000亿美元的增量。

美国公司会像2004年那样将超过2.6万亿美元的增量现金主要用于回购股票吗?当时,令两党政客感到失望的是,在3620亿美元的回流利润中,只有很小一部分用于创造就业机会或扩建美国工厂。

自2010年以来,各大公司一直对股票回购乐此不疲。毫无疑问,一些激进股东会再次建议通过回购来提升股价。但大多数投资者已经看透了这一把戏,他们希望看到的是公司营收和收益出现实质性的增长。

为了促进实质性的增长并创造国内就业机会,上市公司高管应投资可持续项目和计划。大规模的股票回购无异是在向世人宣布,高管们没有足够的资本投资来创造合理的回报。

新税法中的特别税收优惠会刺激公司高管使用这些增量现金于未来5年内在美国进行资本投资。只有在这一期间,所有的公司才能够直接扣除其美国资本投资的所有成本,而不是在这些投资的使用周期内逐渐扣除。

这些新资本投资对于美国经济的影响是巨大的。未来5年内2.6万亿美元美国国内投资增量将比美国公司在过去5年的资本投资总额高出20%。

因此,目前正是上市公司高管投资公司未来发展的好时候,包括创造就业机会,扩建当地工厂。如果高管们反其道而行之,意欲将新获得的现金流全部用于回购公司股票,那么独立董事就应考虑对公司构架和策略进行重大调整,而且在必要的情况下给管理团队也换换血。(财富中文网)

罗伯特·珀泽恩是麻省理工学院斯隆管理学院高级讲师,也是前Fidelity Management & Research Company总裁。罗伯特·斯蒂尔是Perella Weinberg Partners首席执行官,曾担任前美国财务部副部长。

译者: Min 

U.S. companies will soon experience a tsunami of free cash flow. Because of the new Trump-GOP tax plan—the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act—we estimate American companies will have over $2.6 trillion of additional cash over the next five years. This will come from three sources: repatriated overseas cash, future foreign earnings, and lower corporate taxes on domestic profits. The critical question is: What will companies do with this inpouring of cash?

For years, many CEOs of public companies have complained of pressure by analysts and activists to focus on short-term profits rather than long-term growth. Now each CEO has a great chance to put their money where their mouth is.

CEOs have two main alternatives for this incremental cash flow; they can boost short-term returns to shareholders through higher dividends and share repurchases, or they can augment long-term growth by investing in plants, people, research, and technology acquisitions.

For the sake of their credibility and the American economy, we urge CEOs to invest in long-term growth, and not in share buybacks as they did in 2004.

In 2004, Congress passed a tax holiday for the repatriation of foreign profits of U.S. companies then held abroad—at a 5.25% rate. As a result, nearly 1,000 eligible American companies decided to bring back to the U.S. $362 billion in foreign profits then held abroad. They then mostly spent that money on share buybacks, which decrease the outstanding number of a company’s shares and thereby increase earnings per share.

Under the new tax act, the incremental cash flow from repatriating past foreign profits is likely to be much higher—above $1 trillion over the next five years. The foreign profits of U.S. companies held abroad have increased dramatically—from approximately $600 billion in 2004 to over $2.5 trillion in 2017. In 2004, companies paid a repatriation tax on foreign profits only if they were brought back to the U.S. By contrast, the new tax plan assesses a repatriation tax on all foreign profits held abroad, so there is no extra tax cost for bringing them back to the U.S.

The future foreign profits of U.S. companies will total over $2 trillion during the next five years. Under the new tax act, these future profits may be repatriated to the U.S. without paying any additional U.S. corporate taxes. We estimate that American companies could reasonably allocate half of this total, or $1 trillion, to capital investments in the U.S.

At the same time, the after-tax domestic profits of American companies should be up sharply with a corporate tax rate at 21%, down from 35%. This rate cut will lead to higher after-tax corporate profits of roughly $600 billion over the next five years.

Will American companies use this total of over $2.6 trillion in incremental cash mainly for share buybacks, as happened in 2004? Then, politicians from both parties were disappointed that so little of the $362 billion in repatriated profits was used to create American jobs or expand U.S. facilities.

Since 2010, companies have engaged in a frenzy of share buybacks. There is no question that some activists will advocate again for buybacks to raise stock prices. But most investors see through this tactic; they are looking for real growth of company revenue and earnings.

To promote real growth and add domestic jobs, public company executives should make capital investments in sustainable projects and programs. Share buybacks above a modest level are a tacit admission by executives that they cannot find enough capital investments to produce reasonable returns.

The special tax incentives in the new tax act should spur company executives to use this incremental cash to make American capital investments during the next five years. Only during this period will all companies be allowed to deduct immediately the full costs of their U.S. capital investments, instead of deducting these costs gradually over the useful life of these investments.

The economic impact of these new capital investments would be significant for the American economy. Incremental domestic investments of $2.6 trillion over the next five years would be 20% higher than total capital investments by American companies in the previous five years.

So now is the time for public company executives to invest for the future—to create jobs and expand local facilities. If, instead, executives propose to use new cash flows solely to buy back their companies’ stock, independent directors should consider major changes in structure and strategy—and, if needed, in the management team.

Robert C. Pozen is a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and former president of Fidelity Management & Research Company. Robert K. Steel is the CEO of Perella Weinberg Partners and a former undersecretary of the U.S. Treasury Department.

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