- "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer highlights large share repurchase programs at Apple, Boeing and others.
- In a market that's grown sour on buybacks, it's important to remember how good they are for investors, Cramer says.
"I've been wondering: what exactly does it take for a company to get Wall Street to appreciate its fabulous earnings and its numbers for revenues?" the "Mad Money" host said on Wednesday. "It's not just Apple that's buying back stock like there's no tomorrow."
The iPhone maker's plan to return up to $100 billion to its shareholders marks the largest share repurchase program announced this year.
"It's like people don't even notice, which is why I feel compelled ... to point out some of the best ones," Cramer said. "So let's talk about the biggest, most impactful buybacks we've seen."
Before Apple announced that it spent $22.8 billion in actual buybacks last quarter, setting a record, biopharmaceutical colossus Amgen was in the lead.
Amgen, the biggest independent biotechnology company in the world, said it bought back $10.7 billion worth of stock last quarter — seven times bigger than its 2017 buyback and an 8.5 percent decrease in its total share count.
"Yet even though the Amgen buyback was a thing of beauty, it didn't seem to have much impact on the stock price, as the darned thing keeps trending lower and lower because biotech's a hated cohort," Cramer said.
"Honestly, if they keep repurchasing at this pace and the stock refuses to go higher or even goes lower, ... this could get on the list of companies being taken over," he added.
Software giant Oracle bought back $4 billion worth of stock last quarter, but Cramer thought the company's $70 billion pile of cash could've warranted an even larger buyback.
"Oracle seems to feel like the market doesn't appreciate the quality of its business, so they're taking action," he explained. "Given the not-so-hot results from the latest quarter, ... I'm not sure management necessarily is right, but at least the guys are putting their money where their mouth is."
Microsoft's $3.8 billion buyback may have marked an 88 percent year-over-year jump, but it still paled in comparison to the tech company's $718 billion market cap.
"Still, Microsoft's been a great performer and the buyback has made its stock behave like it's a small-cap enterprise: when buyers come in, they can't seem to get enough so they move the stock up big," the "Mad Money" host said. "That's what happened when it reported last week."
Fourth in line was aircraft manufacturer Boeing, which repurchased $3 billion of its shares in the first quarter.
"Boeing looks like a steal to me," Cramer said. "Clearly, Boeing's management agrees with me, which is why they're in there buying this stock back hand over fist."
Cramer chalked up UnitedHealth Group's $2.65 billion buyback, a 710 percent increase versus 2017, to the fact that business is good at the managed health care colossus.
"Their managed care competitors are being sold or combining — basically, UNH often feels like the only player in the group that's totally got its house in order," the "Mad Money" host explained.
"I think you need to view this weakness as a gift," he said.
Finally, Cramer circled back to Apple's "buyback to end all buybacks." He was glad to see the consumer tech company finally put a significant piece of its $267 billion cash hoard to work.
He was even happier to hear Apple CFO Luca Maestri say on the post-earnings conference call that the company believes its stock is undervalued.
"That's music to my ears," Cramer said. "I'm a huge fan of this move. Luca Maestri has made it clear that Apple's going to be disciplined with its purchase, but he also said they wanted to deploy the capital quickly. And, look, having Apple buying vast quantities of its own stock is going to make this stock a lot easier to own, even up here."
And considering the fact that Apple has bought back $200 billion worth of its own stock over the last six years, Cramer was confident Apple CEO Tim Cook and his team could execute.
"Bottom line? Today, Apple got credit for its bountiful buyback plans, but there are tons of other companies returning huge slugs of cash to their shareholders and I think you'll miss out if you ignore them," the "Mad Money" host concluded. "Do some homework, find the ones you want to buy and then snag them before the companies buy up all the shares themselves."
Disclosure: Cramer's charitable trust owns shares of Apple, Microsoft and UnitedHealth Group.