US retail behemoth Walmart Friday announced a $15 billion share repurchase program, citing the continued benefits of the company's strong cash flow.
Wal-Mart Stores said the new share repurchase plan replaces a previous $15 billion share repurchase plan announced in 2011.
Walmart said the 2011 share repurchase authorization has approximately $712 million remaining. A company news release did not say whether Walmart would complete 2011 program before moving to the new program.
"Our strong cash flow enabled the company to invest in growth and repurchase over $14 billion of our stock during the last two years," said Charles Holley, Walmart executive vice president and chief financial officer.
"We're pleased to continue our share repurchase program with this new $15 billion authorization."
Walmart announced the share repurchase plan at a lively annual meeting near its Arkansas headquarters that featured appearances by celebrities like Kelly Clarkson and John Legend.
The announcement comes on the heels of a disappointing quarterly earnings report in May. The company's US comparable store sales declined due to a delay in income tax refund checks, tying up consumer spending, while international operations were strained by high expenses.
Walmart has 2.2 million employees and 10,800 stores in 27 countries. The company reported more than $466 billion in revenues in 2011, a sum that is greater than the gross domestic product of most countries.
But controversy has dogged the company in recent years.
Last month Walmart declined to join an garment industry pact on worker safety in the wake of the collapse of a building in Bangladesh that housed a number of export clothing factories, killing more than 1,100.
Instead, Walmart promised to conduct in-depth safety inspections at its Bangladesh suppliers, pledged to notify government authorities of problem factories and disclosed a list of more than 200 factories that had been blacklisted for failing to meet its standards.
But a Bangladesh activist told Friday's annual meeting that the company needs to do more to address safety, according to news reports.
Walmart has also been mired in an extensive bribery probe in Mexico and other countries under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, related to its opening of new stores.
The company said dealing with the probe cost it $73 million in the first quarter, and that it would spend $65-70 million on it in the second quarter.
Walmart shares were up 1.2 percent at $75.64 in late morning trade.