Alphabet Buries Another Math Joke in Latest Share Buyback

Other Bets: The State of Alphabet's Moonshots

Alphabet Inc. is getting serious about reining in spending, but the math whizzes who run the company are still playing games when it comes to some big financial decisions.

The internet search giant buried a math game in its share buyback announcement on Thursday. Google’s parent company said it will repurchase $7,019,340,976.83 worth of its Class C stock. That amount comes from the number of letters in the alphabet (Alphabet Inc., get it?) and "e," an important mathematical constant that equals 2.71828. 

Here’s the calculation, courtesy of Google’s search engine: 26 to the power of "e" equals 7019.34097683. Multiple that by $1 million and you get the new repurchase number.

This is just the latest math joke from the company. Last year, Alphabet said it would buy back as many as $5,099,019,513.59 of its Class C shares. To get that number, it took the square root of 26, then multiplied that by $1 billion.

The company has been under pressure to return some of its huge cash hoard to shareholders, so the most-recent math games have focused on buybacks. But it’s been obsessed by large numbers since inception in the late 1990s.

The name Google is a play on googol, which is the number 1 followed by a hundred zeros. When it first filed to go public, it said it planned to raise $2,718,281,828, a billion times the value of "e."

Nearly a year later, it said it was going to sell 14,159,265 shares of stock. Those are the numbers that follow the decimal in pi. And when the company tried to buy Nortel Network patents, one of its bids was actually “pi” — around $3.14 billion. Its other bids were plays on numbers, too. Google lost the bid.

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