Apple CEO: cash discussions intensifying

Tue Feb 14, 2012 7:15pm EST
 
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By Poornima Gupta and Noel Randewich

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc is in very active discussions at the board level about what to do with its steadily growing hoard of cash and securities, Chief Executive Tim Cook said on Tuesday, responding to calls for the world's most valuable electronics company to put its massive cash reserves to work.

Cook, in one of his rare appearances before investors, also talked about a "jaw-dropping" opportunity in smartphones. He also said the iPad tablet trajectory was "off the charts," adding that he foresaw tablets surpassing the personal computer market in unit sales eventually - eroding Microsoft Corp's Windows dominance.

He acknowledged an intense competitor in Amazon.com Inc and its Kindle Fire tablet, recognizing the online retailer has different strengths. Apple's shares rose to close at $509.46 on the Nasdaq, setting a record high on hopes of strong iPhone 4S demand and investor optimism over the potential launch of a new iPad in 2012.

Wall Street's other concern is the likelihood of Apple returning some of its $98 billion warchest to shareholders through dividends or share buybacks - even if it is only a one-time deal.

On Tuesday, the CEO urged investors at a Goldman Sachs technology conference to be patient about the cash reserves.

"I only ask for a little bit of patience, so we do this deliberately and in the best interest of shareholders," Cook said.

He joked that Apple will not be holding any toga parties with the money.

"It is not new that we are discussing it. It is being discussed more and in more detail."   Continued...