June 7 (Bloomberg) -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which kicked off its annual meeting today, approved a new $15 billion share buyback program.
The new buyback program was effective yesterday and replaces the previous $15 billion authorization, which had about $712 million remaining, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said today in a statement.
The world’s largest retailer is grappling with myriad challenges. Wal-Mart is trying to goose slowing sales gains in the U.S. as such rivals as Amazon.com Inc. and the dollar stores lure its customers. Overseas, the company is struggling to ignite growth in China and other emerging markets even as it probes allegations of bribery in Mexico and possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Wal-Mart is also contending with increasingly restive labor groups clamoring for better working conditions. Protesters from OUR Walmart, a union-backed organization of employees, descended on Bentonville this week.
Wal-Mart has bought back about $36 billion in stock in its four previous fiscal years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The buybacks have pushed the founding Walton family’s stake in the company past 50 percent, giving Wal-Mart the right under New York Stock Exchange rules to have a minority of independent directors on the board. The company has said it has no plans to take advantage of the rules.
Wal-Mart rose 1.4 percent to $76.67 at 10:40 a.m. in New York. The shares gained 11 percent this year through yesterday compared with a 14 percent rise for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index
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