Apple CEO says he feels shareholders' pain, urges long view

Wed Feb 27, 2013 3:45pm EST
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By Poornima Gupta

CUPERTINO, California (Reuters) - Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook on Wednesday acknowledged widespread disappointment in the company's sagging share price but shared few details about its secretive product pipeline and touched only briefly on a raging debate about how best to reward shareholders.

The world's most valuable technology company headed into its annual shareholders' meeting at its headquarters on shakier ground than it has been accustomed to in years, since the iPhone and iPad helped vault the company to premier investment status.

A declining share price has lent weight to Wall Street's demand that it share more of its $137 billion in cash and securities pile - equivalent to Hungary's Gross Domestic Product, and growing - a debate now spearheaded by outspoken hedge fund manager David Einhorn.

Einhorn was not spotted at the meeting at the company's headquarters at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino. Cook repeated that the company's board remained in "very very active" discussions about options for cash sharing, and said he shared investors' dissatisfaction over the stock price.

"I don't like it either. The board doesn't like it. The management team doesn't like it," Cook told investors.

"What we are focused on is the long term. This has always been a secret of Apple."

By focusing on the long term, revenue and profit will follow, he said.

Apple had the "mother of all years" last year with growth, in terms of dollars, outpacing that of Microsoft Corp, Google Inc, Nokia and several other major technology companies combined, Cook said.   Continued...

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks to the audience during an Apple event in San Jose, California October 23, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith