Apple's Cook buys off angry shareholders

@ 2013/04/25
Apple's Tim Cook staged an "oh look there is a badger with a handgun" moment at yesterday's quarter results to distract angry shareholders from the slumping sales.

Faced with the fact that the company was going to make more losses thanks to its competition coming up with better products, more often, Cook decided to distract anyone angry about the figures by offering them cash to go away.

The news that Cook was giving Apple shareholders $100 billion by the end of 2015, partly by raising its dividend 15 percent and partly by increasing its share buyback program six-fold to $60 billion has managed to attract most of the headlines.

This lobbing of cash at investors meant that the real news, that Apple's growth has slowed and margins have decreased was soon forgotten.

In case you missed it Apple reported net income of $9.5 billion on revenue of $43.6 billion. That compares with net income of $11.6 billion on $39.2 billion a year ago. Apple's gross margins guidance for its current quarter came in below expectations. Such forecasts suggest increased competition on pricing.

What replaced this was that now Apple is less a hyper-growth startup-like company and more a mature but robust technology corporation with the world's most lucrative dividend.

In the short term it should quieten those who are alarmed that Apple has gone from a shareprice which always went up, to a normal company.

With the large dividend in their back pocket, analysts were saying that Apple was a mature company that's now trying to get everyone to see it as one. Given that Apple is about as old as most of the big technology companies, such as Microsoft, this is a pretty silly thing to say.

Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Asset Management told Reuters that Apple is in the transition phase from growth to a value company. Growth companies tend to put every penny back in, but that is not the case with Apple here, he cryptically said.

But Apple has been sitting on a cash pile so big that the Duke and Duchess of Wessex can take a well earned skying holiday on its upper slopes. Rather than pouring that money into bribing angry shareholders the company would be better off pouring it into R&D.

But the announcement meant that after announcing falling profits and lower margins, Apple's shares actually rose five percent, something few other companies would be able to pull off on the back of such bad news.

However Apple is still a company whose cash cows, the iPhone and iPad, are being readied for the slaughter house and it needs some new technology badly to save it from oblivion. Cook has in the past year presided over three straight quarters of missed revenue expectations.

Cook tried on Tuesday to drum up enthusiasm around the product pipeline by teasing that "some really great stuff" potentially in new product categories was coming later this year and in 2014.

Of course he did not say what. That will be up to the Tame Apple Press to churn out shed loads of dull speculation for the next few months.

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