Apple ponders cash, caves on board-vote proposal

Thu Feb 23, 2012 5:24pm EST
 
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By Noel Randewich

CUPERTINO, California (Reuters) - Apple Inc on Thursday adopted a measure long desired by investors and corporate governance activists, granting its shareholders a bigger say in the appointment of directors to the board of the world's most valuable technology company.

Chief Executive Tim Cook also repeated that he has been "thinking very deeply" about investors' demands that the consumer electronics company return some of its $98 billion in cash and securities to shareholders via a dividend.

Wall Street has bet on the rising likelihood that some of that enormous war chest could be doled out this year, since Cook told investors last week that discussions around that hoard had intensified.

"We've been thinking about cash very deeply," he said, echoing previous comments. "Frankly speaking, it's more than we need to run the company."

At its annual shareholders meeting in Cupertino, Apple finally acceded to demands from U.S. pension fund Calpers and other major investors that it require unopposed directors to secure a majority-share vote before getting elected to the board.

That move came after shareholders last year, in a rare show of activism for a group often content with the iPad and iPhone maker's sizzling growth and lofty share price, voted in favor of a similar proposal - despite Apple's recommendation they reject it.

Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell said the company had previously resisted the change because it creates legal complications. "But this is Apple and we don't let complexity get in our way," he said.

The proposal's adoption predictably pleased Calpers, the largest U.S. pension fund that has long sought support for such a measure to be adopted at scores of other U.S. corporations.   Continued...

 
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California October 4, 2011. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith