Is Apple ready to issue a dividend?

Written on:February 6, 2012
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There has long been talk that Apple would — or should — someday pay a dividend to its investors. Such talk got more serious when Tim Cook stepped into the CEO role last fall. And now, it looks like this wishful thinking by Apple shareholders might come to fruition. Here’s why:

  • Apple has almost $ 100 billion in cash now.
  • Cook told investors and reporters late last year he wasn’t “religious” about holding cash, a subtle but important difference in the attitude Steve Jobs has long had about Apple’s cash holdings.
  • CFO Peter Oppenheimer shared several weeks ago that the company is “actively discussing” what to do with all that money.
  • People who could be in a position to know are starting to talk openly about it.

A UBS analyst says Apple has been soliciting opinions from investors on what to do with the money. We all know what investors want Apple to do:  give it back to shareholders.

And on Monday, Fortune editor Adam Lashinsky, author of the just-released (and excellent) Inside Apple, writes that we should expect to hear about AAPL owners getting a dividend “sooner rather than later.” As someone who’s demonstrated he knows a thing or two about what goes on inside 1 Infinite Loop, this is yet another good indication Apple is thinking differently about its money these days. As Lashinsky points out, what else will they do with it?:

[W]hat’s becoming increasingly clear is that Apple has a success problem on its hands: It has run out of ways to responsibly spend its profits. It has never done what any other big company would view as a major acquisition. Silicon Valley investment bankers desperately would like to see Apple acquire Twitter, for example. But this would be so contrary to the Apple acquisition mindset that it’s hard to imagine.

Apple’s annual shareholder meeting is coming up on February 23. These kinds of meetings can be somewhat of a snooze. Perhaps this year edition will have a few fireworks.

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