Apple shareholders to meet as stock at record high

Wed Feb 22, 2012 8:19am EST
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By Poornima Gupta

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc Chief Executive Tim Cook is in an enviable position - market leading products, a $98 billion warchest and a seemingly gravity-defying stock price.

But as he gears up for the annual face-to-face meeting with shareholders, a few issues may be causing him angst. Chief among them are in China, where poor labor conditions are in the spotlight and Apple's iPad trademark is under attack.

The meeting this Thursday comes days after Apple touched a new lifetime high of $526.29 before receding slightly. The stock may get a boost next month, when Apple is expected to unveil a new version of its best-selling iPad.

Apple shares have seen a blistering rally in the past seven weeks, gaining $100 and making Apple the most valuable U.S. company, with $468 billion in market capitalization.

But as much as Apple's shares rally, working conditions at the company's manufacturing contractors in China have also attracted attention this year.

Recently, Apple has been trying to redirect the spotlight on its efforts to force its partners to treat their employees better and the iPhone and iPad maker may use Thursday's meeting to repeat it commitment to improve labor conditions in its supply chain.

"The Fair Labor Association and the audit they are doing of all their (supply) firms is a corporate governance issue that will probably be a reasonably active discussion at the shareholder meeting," said Tim Lesko, portfolio manager at Granite investment Advisors. Apple share account for about 3 percent of Granite's equity assets.

The U.S. non-profit labor group Fair Labor Association has begun a study of the working conditions at Apple's main contract manufacturers, including supplier Foxconn Technology Group's plants in China, which has been in the news for worker suicides, a plant explosion and poor working conditions.   Continued...

The Apple Inc corporate logo is pictured on rear side of the Macbook Pro notebook computer in Warsaw February 6, 2012.  REUTERS/Kacper Pempel