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Apple To Offer Dividends

Apple is to launch a quarterly dividend and share repurchasing scheme, answering questions about its £63bn cash reserve

Apple has finally decided what to do with its $100 billion (£63bn) cash reserve. During a call with financial analysts, company executives detailed a new stock repurchasing and dividend programme that will reward shareholders.

This plan kicks off on 1 July, with a quarterly dividend payment scheduled for the company’s fiscal fourth quarter of 2012. After that, Apple plans to authorise a $10 billion share repurchase programme at the beginning of its fiscal 2013 at the end of September.

Acquisitions?

The dividend will total $2.65 per share. Apple executives did not say if the company had other plans, such as acquiring other businesses and their technologies, although Apple has made some small but strategic buys during the last several years.

Wall Street pressure for some sort of remuneration has risen along with Apple’s stock price.

The company sits on an enormous reservoir of cash, thanks in large part to blockbuster sales of mobile devices such as the iPad and iPhone. Yet despite growing cash reserves and investment pressure, Apple has traditionally appeared reluctant to even consider paying out a dividend to stockholders.

In February 2010, for example, former chief executive Steve Jobs told the audience at the company’s annual investors meeting that, rather than pay out a dividend or buy back shares, he preferred to “leave the powder dry” for possible acquisitions.

“Who knows what’s around the next corner,” he added, according to Reuters. “When we think about big, bold things, we know that if we needed to acquire something, a piece of the puzzle, to make something big and bold a reality, we could write a check for it.”

Current chief executive Tim Cook spent a good portion of a 19 March conference call assuring analysts and media that Apple’s ability to respond to industry shifts would remain unhindered, dividend or no. “We will maintain our disciplined approach,” he said. “These decisions will not close any doors for us.”

Broadening the investor base

He cited the chance to broaden Apple’s investor base, and curb any dilution from company employees tendering their shares, as reasons behind the decision to initiate the dividend and buyback.

Analysts immediately pounced on the announcement. “We see this as very positive for the stock as the large market cap is one of the major hindrances to future upside, and this announcement will allow dividend investors to get involved,” Peter Misek, an analyst with Jefferies & Co., wrote in a co-authored research note on 19 March. “We expect dividend increases in the future.”

Others commented on Apple executives’ reluctance to discuss possible dividend expansion. “While some investors may have wanted some more visibility into future increases in the dividend,” Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, wrote in a research note released soon after Apple’s conference call, “we believe the dividend achieves the main goal of expanding [Apple’s] shareholder base.”