Apple seen boosting share buybacks after blockbuster results
By Tenzin Pema and Abhirup Roy
(Reuters) - Apple Inc's (AAPL.O: Quote) blockbuster results and a ballooning cash pile may prompt the company to boost share buybacks and dividends this year, with some analysts expecting the iPhone maker to return more than $200 billion to investors.
Apple's shares rose as much as 8 percent to $118 in early trading on Wednesday, after the company posted the biggest-ever quarterly profit by a public corporation.
Apple sold a record 74.5 million iPhones in the quarter and reported a 70 percent surge in China sales.
"We had to increase our cell widths and chart heights after Apple's blow-out December-quarter print," RBC Capital Markets analysts wrote, raising their price target to $130 from $123.
At least 17 brokerages raised price targets on the stock.
Cantor Fitzgerald was the most bullish with a price target of $160 - implying a market valuation of more than $900 billion by the end of the year. [RCH/US]
Up to Tuesday's close, the stock had risen 39 percent in the past 12 months, adding more than $177 billion to the company's market capitalization, or nearly half the market value of Exxon Mobil Corp XOM.N, the second-largest listed U.S. company.
With a cash pile of $178 billion, Apple may increase its capital return program to more than $200 billion over three years, RBC Capital Markets analysts said. Continued...