That's quite a conundrum facing the management team over there at CP Rail. Hitman Harrison takes a perverse pride in having eliminated close to 5,000 good Canadian jobs. That's 5,000 folks no longer getting a paycheck, and even a simpleton realizes that if you don't have to pay that cash out to lazy-ass Canadian workers, well, ya gotta do something with it...
For the Ackman-installed management team those savings add up to somewhere between 300 and 400 millions of dollars per year; perhaps a little more.
What to do, what to do?....
Hunter Harrison himself was ruminating during a recent speech about who was going to pay to replace those exploding DOT 111 tankers. A casual observer might be tempted to draw a line linking a railroad's surplus cash to the unsafe oil tank wagons they are pulling back and forth across the country, but that would be just a tad too obvious. They didn't pay Hunter a $50,000,000 signing bonus to invest in safety, for Gods sakes!
Thankfully, Hunter came to his senses a few days after those careless ruminations. Instead of investing in safety, or figuring out a way to get Canadian farmers' bumper grain crop to market, he's come up with a meaningful way to meet the needs of CP Rail's American shareholders - a share buy back.
Share buy-backs are perhaps the most useless and counter-productive investment strategy when it comes to investing surplus cash. Doesn't enhance the company, doesn't open doors to new business opportunities, doesn't do a damed thing except goose the share price.
Ergo, the share-holders love it!
The biggest shareholder of CP Rail is of course US hedgie Bill Ackman and his Pershing Square fund.
That's job one for CP Rail today. It's no longer about trains or jobs or getting grain to market.
It's about meeting the needs of American hedge funds.