Apple's Cook finally shares $98 billion cache

Mon Mar 19, 2012 6:19pm EDT
 
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By Poornima Gupta

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook, moving swiftly after taking over from late Silicon Valley icon Steve Jobs, fulfilled a longstanding desire of investors by initiating a quarterly dividend and share buyback that will pay out $45 billion over three years.

The world's most valuable company will start paying its first dividends since 1995 - a regular quarterly payout of $2.65 a share - in July, and buy back up to $10 billion of its stock beginning in the next fiscal year.

The $10 billion annual dividend program, which Cook said will be reviewed periodically, ranks among the largest current U.S. corporate cash payouts.

Yet it disappointed some fund managers, given a 1.8 percent dividend yield that lags the Standard & Poor's 500 average and its modest size versus a $98 billion war chest Apple has accumulated selling Macintosh computers and iPhones.

On Monday, the company said it had sold 3 million of its latest, 4G-enabled iPads, setting a first-weekend record for the line of tablet computers.

Cook told analysts on Monday that "making great products" remained top priority, echoing the sentiments of his former boss, who died last October after a long battle with cancer.

Jobs' former lieutenant has impressed Wall Street since taking the helm. He made his mark revealing Apple's production partners and initiating investigations into allegations of labor abuse in its supply chain, and addressing investors directly at this year's Goldman Sachs conference. But the question of whether the operations maven can envision revolutionary products lingers for some.

"Already we are seeing more openness, and more willingness to address issues on many different fronts under Tim Cook than we had seen in the past," said Connor Browne, portfolio manager of Thornburg Value Fund.   Continued...

 
Raindrops are seen in front of an Apple logo outside an Apple store in Shanghai February 22, 2012. REUTERS/Aly Song