Share buy-backs have become routine for any company that generates more cash than it can use at least as profitably as its existing activities - and that should not include popping it into the bank to pay down the overdraft and save interest.
City fund managers argue that they are the professionals, that they know better than the nitty-gritty types who run companies how to invest their own cash. They should be handed it back to deploy as they think fit.
Many nitty-gritty directors have swallowed this. There is little gained picking a fight with people you need on your side when you want to raise new capital for some grand project - or when somebody objects your bonus is over the top.
There is some logic in it, too. So long as interest rates stay relatively low it should be easy to earn more on borrowed money than you are paying to the bank. Gearing gears up profits - provided you don't overdo it and frighten those nervous individuals who read balance sheets.
The if you use the borrowed money to buy-back your own shares, the price of the ones that are left should go up because your earnings - and the cost of your dividends - are spread around fewer shares.
Private shareholders may grumble that a buy-back does them no good. They don't get a cheque in the post, while City professionals can see the company's brokers coming and do best.
The answer is to pass the capital back as a special dividend. That way everyone gets a cheque and the company is not expected to do it again next year. The catch is that the special dividend is taxed. Shareholders pay tax on their own capital just as if it was income.
Halifax got round that some years ago by coupling the cheque with an elaborate corporate re-structuring. It worked.
The shareholders got the special dividend tax-free. But I have never spotted anyone else repeating the trick.
In real life, few shareholders mind. A cheque is a cheque.
Yesterday 3i proposed to return £500 million of capital split evenly between a special dividend and a buy-back. Well, the dividend is taxed and you may as well live with it.
The buy-back is different - because 3i is different, one of the very few investment trusts where the shares regularly stand at a premium to its underlying investments, sometimes a hefty premium.
This means 3i will very probably pay more for the shares that it buys back than the value of the assets they represent. That looks like a bad deal for holders of the shares that are left.
When conventional investment trusts buy back shares at a discount the directors make out that they have pulled off a bargain. They cannot both be right.
Not to worry, says Philip Yea, 3i's chief executive. The remaining shareholders will get a bigger slice of the return he earns on their money - 15.8 per cent last year. Up to a point. Those returns are in the future. Still, he is doing the right thing. It is better to have him signing cheques for shareholders than throwing the money at dodgy investments.