It has been 20 years since TSYS investors were rewarded with a stock split that increased the number of shares they own without spending a dime.
The last time it occurred was May 11, 1998, when the credit-card processor pulled the trigger on a split that converted each two shares held by investors into three. That was more than a year before the firm moved into its current glitzy corporate headquarters in downtown Columbus.
Despite its stock hitting an all-time high of $90.74 in March — and share prices up nearly 58 percent from a 52-week low of $57 and change on July 6, 2017 — there’s no public indication another split is being considered.
“We’re not going to talk about our stock price,” TSYS spokesman Cyle Mims said Friday.
The fact remains that fewer and fewer companies have felt the need to reduce the price of an inflated stock while also putting extra shares into the hands of faithful investors during what has become a historic bull-market run.
TheStreet.com noted in a recent story titled, “Why Aren’t Companies Splitting Their Stocks Anymore?,” that there has been an average of nearly 11 splits annually since the bull market began a decade ago coming out of the Great Recession. It surmised that individual investors are putting more money into mutual funds than buying specific companies’ stock.
“There have been some studies showing that stocks with higher share prices tend to attract fewer short term traders which reduced volatility, something management teams like,” Logan Capital Management principal and portfolio manager Stephen Lee told TheStreet.com.
However, the possibility of stock volatility did not stop investor darling Aflac from moving ahead with a 2-for-1 split earlier this year, a move by its board of directors that was announced in February and took place in mid-March. Like TSYS now, its shares were trading on the New York Stock Exchange in the vicinity of $90 apiece.
“This is the ninth split of the company’s common stock since listing on the NYSE in 1974 and the first in 17 years,” Aflac Chairman and CEO Dan Amos said at the time. “This split enhances the liquidity of our shares, which is in addition to our efforts to increase shareholder value.”
Then again, Amos had commented publicly at shareholder meetings about the prospects and criteria of a stock split, occasionally drawing chuckles from investors who have been rewarded handsomely by the nearly 63-year-old company’s financial performance. TSYS management has not broached the topic in years.
“I think Aflac stays in tune with their shareholders and understands that the majority of their shareholders who are individuals like to have the opportunity to buy more shares,” Murray Solomon, registered principal with Raymond James Financial Services in Columbus, said on the eve of Aflac’s stock split. “A split always gives the 100-share-lot kind of buyer an opportunity to get in that may not be possible if the shares are $90 per share.”
Prior to its last stock split in 1998, Total System Services, as TSYS is incorporated, had been on somewhat of a roll in that area. Its website shows it has had 2-for-1 stock splits in 1996, 1994, 1993 and 1986, along with two additional 3-for-2 splits in 1985 and 1984.
The firm was spun off completely from Synovus Financial Corp. at the end of 2007. At that time, Synovus, the parent of Columbus Bank and Trust, owned about 80 percent of the credit-card processor’s shares.
In trading Friday on the New York Stock Exchange, TSYS shares rose 23 cents to $87.14 amid lower-than-average volume.