Apple's dividend and share re-purchase plan: the impact on cash growth

Today Apple announced both a dividend and a share re-purchase plan which, when combined, will consume 45% of Apple’s current US cash reserves.

The dividend will be $2.65/share/quarter and the buyback will cost $10 billion over three years. The dividend will therefore cost about $2.5 billion per quarter (starting next quarter) and the re-purchase will cost about $833 million per quarter (starting next fiscal year).

However, note that Apple’s cash has been growing far more quickly. It increased by $16 billion last quarter or $37 billion over the last year. This rate of increase is itself increasing.

To illustrate, I prepared the following chart. It shows historic net income, change in cash and a forecast of the costs of the new uses of cash and future net income (based on my estimates).

I made an assumption that future cash growth will equal net earnings minus costs for the new dividend and share re-purchase. What we should see is that the previously tight coupling between increase in cash and earnings will remain but that there will be a negative offset by $3.333 billion each quarter. In other words, cash will increase but at a slower rate.

This means Apple’s total cash should still grow by more than $35 billion this year.

That would result in the following, more subdued, total cash trajectory (for simplicity, I assumed all added cash would be in cash and cash equivalent accounts)

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  • Any thoughts on why it would be strategic for Apple to do this?  I remember you previously stating that buy backs and dividends seem to destroy value rather than create it, and while investors have been clamoring for dividends, these are the same people who said Apple was doomed because iOS didn’t support Flash and have called each iPad a disappointment.  

    • The re-purchase is an anti-dilution measure. It’s basically correcting for employee stock plans. That means the company will pay these share bonuses out of cash flow not out of equity. That is as it should be.
      The dividend destroys some value because that money is double-taxed. Shareholders pay corporate tax on earnings and then again pay regular income tax on the portion they get out of the company. This is mitigated by a rather lower corp. tax that Apple pays due to non-US earnings. Overall, I’d say this is doing as best a job as possible with some of the excess cash. The fact is that it just grows beyond what they can invest.

      • admiralpumpkin


        What’s your position on their current plan (dividend + buy-back) vs pure stock buy back?

        Seems, to me, that pure stock buy-back is numerically superior in every way.

      • There may be some subtle benefits of dividends to shareholders (like increasing the number of potential share buyers) but I mostly agree that they are not as valuable as buybacks. The proof is simply that if the shareholder uses his dividend check to purchase more shares he’s worse off than if the company does it for him since his purchase comes after it’s taxed.

      • Windsor Smith

        But won’t a buyback also be double-taxed when a shareholder realizes the gain by selling shares?

        Then the only advantages to a buyback would be (1) shareholders can choose to defer taxes on the buyback, and (2) gains from the buyback might be taxed at a lower rate in the U.S. starting next year.

        (Sorry to arrive so late to this table.)

      • Yes, but that would be capital gains, not (soon-to-be) regular income. Long term capital gains are “rewarded” by governments. Short term dividends are severely punished. It’s too bad that we need to make these decisions with the help of government policies. In theory there should be no difference but these norms have evolved over time so presumably they are for the better.

    • Ian Ollmann

      The problem is really one of how to attract enough capital to support a  $1 trillion+ valuation. Many of the funds that were allowed to invest in AAPL are at the limit of fraction of money that they can invest in any one company. As AAPL goes up, they may even be forced to sell off part of their holdings, creating a drag on the stock price. Other funds were prevented from buying AAPL because it doesn’t pay a dividend. This opens the door to them. 

  • pds

    Second paragraph should probably read ‘$45 bill over next 3 years’, not $10 over three years.

    • Thinkative

      No, it’s 10 billion over 3 years and is only to counteract the dilution of ownership from granting stock to employees. Overall impact is negligible.

      • Thinkative

        Sorry. I see what you are trying to say, but the article is talking about each element separately. Buy back is 10 over 3 yrs and the div is 2.65/sh/qtr.

  • berult

    This is the first major chink in Apple’s disruptive armor. Apple’s business model is being disrupted by its own volition of not being financially disruptive to conventional wisdom.

    Cookin’ Apple sink ain’t no Jobsian Apple sync.

    …pandering has entered Apple’s lexicon …a new era I’m afraid it is not…

    • I don’t see this as pandering to the stockholders. I see this as a strategic concession. For a tiny, tiny portion of Apple’s cash pile (10 billion over three years) they are mollifying the critics while still allowing themselves the freedom to do pretty much as they want.

      This is a move that purist Jobs would probably not have made but the more diplomatic Cook would. I’m a purist myself and an avid admirer of Steve Jobs. Jobs knew that dividends make no sense so he wouldn’t do them. Cook also knows that dividends make little sense but he’s willing to do something a little less optimal in the short run in order to gain an advantage in the long run.

      • berult

        The pandering is to conformity, …not the stockholders. I would have absolved him of pandering to Apple’s innovation legacy. 

    •  I disagree.  Dividends made a great deal of sense and it will bring many more than a small handful of large investors in, I predict.

  • Joe_Winfield_IL

    If this is the case, then what’s the anti-dividend argument all about?  For 2%, they opened the door to a handful of new (large) investors.  Not only does it not dent the cash, but it really doesn’t impede its growth.  Apple’s strategic investments are done almost entirely with foreign cash, so no issue there.  I’ll gladly take my $2.65/quarter and reinvest.  I imagine plenty of other slow money investors will do the same.  

    Today’s CNBC chatter was about how 2% isn’t significant, as though AAPL needed to prove something to investors.  It’s not a REIT; why on earth would they return everything real time to investors?

    • berult

      Symbolism. A narcissistic, trivial, ‘pure insider’ operation whose symbolic shall haunt legacy idealism… A sort of rite of passage to rampant cynicism.

      Can Tim Cook ever be thrusted into exclaiming ‘magic’ and survive the irony of its ground-hogging capitalization…?

      • Joe_Winfield_IL

        So you agree?  Disagree?  Also, “symbolic” is an adjective, not a noun.

      • berult

        What more of a statement can one make than to morph a subservient adjective into a governing noun, …at the very trivial cost of losing a grammatical, syntactic or spelling argument…

        Tim Cook should perhaps have done likewise, …winning my trust while losing the argument…

      • Sacto_Joe

        Tim only needs to keep the steam up and stay on track. Momentum will do the rest. Ive will fire off the JATO in his own sweet, sweet time. Have faith. Enjoy the journey.

  • aeolist

    Seems to me that the important thing to focus on is the rate of growth of cash flow from operations is the most important measure of value creation for a company. Cash balances are interesting but of second order importance. Dividend decisions may reduce cash balances but not cash flow from ops. 

    Lower future cash balances aren’t particularly important as long as there is sufficient cash to act as an insurance buffer and an acquisition war chest. Apple thinks that they have enough and I think they are right.

    • jdsweet

      Insurance buffer and operational reserve for striking strategic multi-billion pre-payment arrangements (likely the biggest use of their overseas cash) as they have seem great, but I struggle to imagine an acquisition.

      Any company costly enough to warrant their current cash pile would be so large and full of non-Apple managers/employees, that it seems like it’d have a huge chance of diluting Apple’s culture (e.g. the prominence of design in product development), probably one of their top two or three long-term assets.

      • Joe_Winfield_IL

        I completely agree on the acquisition front.  Another issue to consider is that Apple skirts antitrust issues by developing in house and not buying share in any of its key markets.  Many of the large hypothetical acquisitions people like to project for Apple would trigger all kinds of DOJ attention.

      • jdsweet

        Not to mention that I’ve never heard one that made sense.  Nearly all the suggestions I’ve heard are the dreams of spiteful little boys making Christmas wish lists.

  • Sebi

    Can you add a chart, like the last one, with domestic and foreign amount of money?
    So you can see how much cash Apple can really spend in dividends and share repruchase.

    • We don’t get regular data about the international mix of holdings. I believe they’ve been reporting it at around 65% international last time. If they continue to do so I might fold that in.

  • Studentrights

    I was pissed at Apple until I did the math, which Horace thankfully confirmed.

    I’m still don’t understand the value of this move but as long as the war-chest is not depleted and continues to grow I’m happy. That war-chest is a threat to Apple’s competitors no matter what way you spin it and I would like to see it used for bold plans that will user in a new age of computing that the commodity model simple could not.

    iOS is unifying the web and media formats via moblie in a way that Windows did via the desktop.

    I see no reason several eco-systems (vertical and horizontal – curated and commodity) cannot co-exsist for the benefit of all.

    As Steve Jobs said, “For Apple to win, Microsoft doesn’t have to lose.”

    • Walt French

      “…as long as the war-chest is not depleted and continues to grow I’m happy. That war-chest is a threat to Apple’s competitors no matter what way you spin it and I would like to see it used for bold plans that will user in a new age of computing that the commodity model simple could not.”

      All correct. But there’s another aspect: as of today, that war chest is collecting somewhere around 0% interest while its option value is actually decreasing. That’s because the ability to make major acquisitions or partnerships, and assimilate/manage them, is now understood to be not so relevant. More cash, and the old cash just gets buried.

      Apple has a pretty spectacular track record of return on invested capital. But that’s because of its razor-sharp focus on opportunities that fit into its ecosystem. Investors can now take the cash that Apple doesn’t have a likely need for, and use it to diversify — to put it into other opportunities that might do well despite being uncorrelated to Apple.

      PS: I was among the many hoping for something more dramatic. 

      • Joe_Winfield_IL

        Just curious, what kind of dramatic use might you have hoped for?  Different dividend/buyback plans, or alternative use altogether?

  • theothergeoff

    One thought on the Stock Buy back and the fact that cash reserves are expected to continue to increase even with a dividend, is that a 2% yield should put AAPL more index funds and at a greater % of shares (because 2% yield is roughly the SP500 yield, and fund managers don’t have to cross balance dividends with growth).  While I don’t relish the thought of more institutional investments, I do see this driving the P/E closer to 20 than where is languishes now.  

    Does increased Market Cap (from stock buy-backs and assumed demand) impact the ability to leverage  deals with technology firms where you want to buy the human capital (stock incentives to stay on during/through/beyond the acquisition).   I can only think any perception of lack of cash would be offset by the ability to use the bought stock as a ‘swap’ or an option to  capture key personnel.

  • admiralpumpkin

    The dividend is a horrible use of their cash. Double taxed. No strategic value to Apple. This is the first T Cook decision which I think is very bad.

    As Jobs once said (paraphrasing), ‘giving money away [dividend] means we can’t think of anything better to do with it.’

    The fact that T Cook et all can’t think of anything better to do with it is disheartening.

    • How is it double taxed if they are not bringing back money from overseas?

      • Dividends are taxed as regular income for shareholders but the money used was already taxed as corporate income. If your marginal tax rate is 30%, then $100 of EBIT ends up as $75 of net income and then $52 in your pocket.

      • Jonsegal

        Hi Horace,

        I think dividends are taxed at their own rate, not the marginal rate.


      • MOD

        In the US the dividend rate is 15% but that “benefit” is set to expire after 2012, at which time it will revert to the marginal tax rate. If you are a foreign stockholder, then 30% is withheld.

        Horace is right. There are two sequential taxes applied on dividends: 1. taxed as income to the corporation and 2. taxed as income to the shareholders.

        The US is one of the only countries in the world that taxes dividends twice. Write your congressman.

      • sigaba

        A nit….

        “Money” isn’t taxed, people are. As long as a corporation is a separate entity from a shareholder, independent in action, the corporation’s taxable events and it’s shareholder’s taxable events are severable and not sequential.

        The burden of a tax is strictly a question of elasticity of supply and demand.  Since shareholders have no control over their dividend income, if any, dividends are in effect a good with inelastic demand.  Dividends are like gifts in that you can impose whatever tax you please on them, but the taxes only burden the giver, because the receiver’s base scenario is receiving nothing.

        If a shareholder managed a company and had the ability to control its taxable events and set its dividends, then yes, the income tax on dividends would have double incidence.  But as it is in the US for most exchange-listed corporations, shareholders have no control over these things, so income taxes are only incident upon them once, when they earn the dividend, a tax they can decline by selling their shares.  The corporation’s tax incidence doesn’t reach down into the shareholders’ wallets, because there’s no action they can take to avoid it.

        Dividends in the US aren’t taxed “twice,” the total tax burden of the corporate profit falls upon the corporation paying.  There’s no evidence, empirical or theoretical, that corporate tax events cause the shareholders to act differently, or that shareholder tax events cause their corporations to behave differently.

      • MOD

        See above.

        I own Apple. I placed my entire life savings on this company. I borrowed money to buy this company.

        I am not an incidental, occasional beneficiary who might or might not act differently if blah blah blah.

        First put your life savings in Apple, mortgage your house, wait a few years and see what happens, then see if you still write bs.

      • sigaba

        You held AAPL regardless of the dividend and tax regime, so that sorta proves my point, no?

      • MOD

        US “C-Corp”
        Corporate income:   $100
        35% corp tax:          ($35)
        Net income:              $65

        Dividend distribution:          $65
        Personal income tax 15%: ($9.75)
        Net income:                      $55.25

        Effective tax rate: (100-55.25)/100 =44.75%

        That is your new tax rate.

        Write your congressman!!!

        If this were a gift, it would not be taxable to you or to Apple (if under $5 million).

      • sigaba

        I don’t think you understand how tax incidence works.  Tax rates don’t cumulate like that, because that $100 in corporate income was never “yours.”  Shareholders have no claims on their corporation’s income, any more than a landlord has claims on his tenant’s income.  Think about it: a tenant is paid his wages, which are taxed.  A landlord collects the rent and has to pay taxes on his profit at the end of the year — is the landlord’s profit “double taxed”?  It is all the same “money” after all, right?
        My congressman’s doing a great job, and I’ve just written him to ignore anybody that complains about “double taxation.”  Anything the government does to keep people out of the US stock market as currently constituted is good policy to me.

      • I believe what you’re stating is opinion. Shareholders own the company. They have claims on everything within it. I don’t see the analogy to a landlord and tenant. Or are you suggesting that corporations are people?

      • sigaba

        The idea that holders of common stock have claims to everything in a company is true, but in practice these claims are meaningless.  I admit that is an opinion.  Holders of equities in the US exert very little responsible control of their companies — they nominally “own” the company but the management appropriates the substantive rights of owners through adverse possession.  We’ve all voted proxies before and the idea that they somehow constitute anything like an exercise of an owner’s responsibility is the most ridiculous piffle.

        Again, I’m not saying this is true of all corporations everywhere, but law and custom and historical developments have made it normal in the US.

        I don’t think corporations are “people,” but a hundred years of American law, custom and  jurisprudence disagrees with me, and it’s clear to me that they’re certainly independent economic agents, because legal institutions in the US support and protect them as such.  You don’t have to have a pulse in order to rationally maximize, just someone with a pulse who gets paid to “manage” the process for you.

      • To your point about taxing people vs. money, I think neither is quite right. Taxes are meant to be extracted from value added. Whether it’s an individual through her labor or a corporation through its aggregate assets. If value is created, taxes should be extracted to provide the infrastructure and “platforms” for that production. If that is the case (and again, this may not be the case–regressive or confiscatory policies abound) then it would make more sense to consider the value created as profit and tax that once rather than once by the corporation and again by its owner. The owner adds no value. This view is not extreme; it’s actually how policy is made in much of Europe. Europe goes further and taxes consumption in the form of the aptly named Value Added Tax, which in the US is left to the states.

      • sigaba

        There are some regimes that tax value added directly, but the point is that the “burden” of a particular tax has nothing to do with where you collect it, it’s dependent on wether or not the taxed party is able to pass on its tax costs to someone else, which depends on what they make and how much liberty they have to set the prices they buy and sell at. VATs are favored not necessarily because they shift the burden onto added value, income taxes do this too, but because they’re much easier to enforce and their distortionary effects tilt people toward saving over consumption — this effect is primarily semantic, because it labels turning metal into an iPad “adding value” to the metal, but turning a $10 stock into a $20 stock isn’t considered “adding value” to the stock.

        My original point about dividends is that, from the shareholder’s perspective, they’re basically a perfect economic rent, and you could hypothetically tax them at 100% and it wouldn’t change most investor’s decision making on the margin, and certainly not the decision making of an investor in a growing company like Apple. Alternately, if you were to hypothetically raise the taxes on a company deprive them of the loose cash necessary to pay a dividend, it wouldn’t actually deprive the company of anything because the dividend doesn’t actually buy them anything, on the margin.

        I think the reason this is is because, to bring the point back, dividends are meant to reward owners for their stake in the company, for the value
        they add to an organization. And modern investors, because of modern
        corporate governance, don’t add any value to the organization as such,
        except by providing a pool of demand for the company’s paper, that the
        management can use to construct elaborate compensation packages for

      • sigaba

        Take the $100 from MOD’s example.  MOD’s contention is that that $100 is his, the shareholders, it’s his property, thus the taxes levied on it are incident on him.

        Now, in a public, listed corp in the US, that $100 goes into the corp’s checking account and the CEO decided how to spend it.  The shareholder can’t allocate it to R&D, or sales, or to saving, or to retiring debt, or stock buyback, or distribution as dividends.  He’s never asked, they never hold votes on something so specific. The only way he can affect how it’s spent is by either being a huge pension fund and taking meetings with the management, who have every right to turn you down and offer you the Hobson’s choice of selling your stock if you don’t like how the company’s run.

        If that’s “ownership” of the $100 it’s the strangest kind of ownership I’ve ever seen.  

      • sigaba

        Again, like, if shareholders were able to compel their corporations to hand over a dividend, yes the rates would double-up on the shareholders. But, since shareholders don’t control their companies, they’re essentially silent partners that do no work, make no decisions and take no risk, that doesn’t happen.

      • MOD

        The fact is that shareholders and directors make decisions based upon tax rates. Taxes are the single largest expense of anyone with wealth. There is no other expense that is 44% of your annual income.

        How to minimize and avoid taxes is a trillion dollar “industry”.

        To brush taxes off as unavoidable is plain ignorant. Off-shore financial centers (low or no taxation) hold 25% off all the money in the world. This is no accident.

        Apple, Google, and all large corporations are trying to save on taxes, and this is a non-stop activity, as are all wealthy individuals.

        You can become wealthy a lot faster if you don’t pay taxes.

        You can bet that I will look for a way to reduce my taxes, whether it involves Apple or not.

        My point is also that only those who don’t pay much taxes are cavalier about tax rates. When you start writing large checks to the IRS, you start wondering why. Until then it is just an academic question.

      • I pay plenty of taxes.  Probably proportionately more than you, if you’re wealthy.  I am not so much “cavalier” about tax rates, as I am convinced that they are too low.

        For me, part of what it means to be “wealthy” is to live in a country (not a neighborhood) with functioning public services and a solvent fisc.

      • I should mention that both corporate taxes and dividend taxes are lower in the Nordic countries while public services are far, far better.

      • sigaba

        Yes, but the tax differentials on regular income and VATs are…. 🙂  Also you’d find that Gini coefficients are much lower and median income is much higher, after government transfers.

        The quality of public services is driven very much by overall perception of the free rider problem.  In the US, people see free riders under every rock, as a proud Minnesota Scandinavian though, I’m aware that the average Swede is much less cyclical.

      • Write your congressman — because the capital-owning class is over-taxed in the US?  Give me a break.

      • MOD

        Some of you here do not understand. When you pay $50,000 in taxes per year, it does not matter the rate. Why should I pay $50,000 and someone else $5000, and a poor person $0.

        Am I getting 10 times the govt services? Or 100 times, etc. No. How about 10 times the votes, or 100 times?

        Second, rent should be a tax deduction. It is for all businesses and the self-employed. Then the income would only be taxed once. This is correct. Otherwise it is taxed twice, for the (poor) tenant and for the landlord.

        Thirdly, a shareholder owns the corporation. There is no debate possible on this since it is the definition. That some investors do not know or understand this is no excuse for swindling them.

        Apple does belong to me. Apple will pay dividends because its shareholders said so. Shareholders control the company. That $100 does belong to me, in its entirety.

        Heck, most people think a tax refund is income to them. They don’t realize that the IRS first took their money, then gave some of it back.

        It is like a thief stole money, then gave it back. Most people consider that income, from a benefactor. They don’t see the swindle.

        You should take some classes on tax preparation at your local junior college to understand the horror that the IRS and US Congress have become.

        And the poor and the ignorant are the hardest hit. This is because the US Congress is a bigger crook than any corporation and will actively swindle the ignorant. Educate yourself.

      • sigaba

        It’s important to understand that progressive taxes aren’t necessarily based on the principle that people who make more money depend on more government services, though this is generally true.

        Taxes are graduated because the more you have, the less you notice the deprivation.  Every dollar you earn is worth less to you than the dollar before that, that’s just marginal utility at work.

        “Apple does belong to me. ”

        Yes, but my contention is that stock ownership has become a non-actionable fiction, a stock is “property” in the most academic sense imaginable.  Something you can put a fence around is property, something you live on, more so. A piece of paper that creates no mutual obligation, doesn’t even approach the definition of a contract…

      • MOD

         To sigaba:

        Whether you own 100% of a small corporation or 1 billionth of a large corporation the principle of ownership does not change.

        As far as corporate governance is concerned, it is the stockholders who elect a board of directors and the board of directors hires a CEO to manage the company day to day.

        The board of directors can fire Tim Cook anytime they want to. If you recall they fired Steve Jobs earlier, and replaced him with Sculley.

        And yes there are proxy fights for control of the board (thus the direction of the corporation). And yes, the more stock you hold, the more votes.

        If you own over 10% of the business they generally offer you a seat on the board. So to influence Apple all you have to do is buy enough of their stock.

        Just because investors don’t know that they are owners and exercise this fact, does not eradicate their ownership.

        If anything they should be educated about their power and their rights.

      • sigaba

        I WISH I lived in a world where shareholders didn’t just vote for the board that the management recommended.

        “The board of directors can fire Tim Cook anytime they want to.”

        Yeah but that sort of thing never actually happens. Board members only get replaces en masse by hostile takeovers, and the boards are basically responsive to the press and the movements of large mutual funds,  We live in Peter Drucker’s Pension Fund Socialism, and the lack of accountability created by the current regime has ruined equities for everyone.

      • If they bought back shares and money was not double taxed as a result, would that not be a more efficient way of returning value to share holders? 

      • Yes, in theory.

    • Joe_Winfield_IL

      I think it’s a bit unfair to call this “horrible.”  The late, great Steve Jobs couldn’t find any use either.  Can you think of anything better to do with the money that we will all instead receive as dividends?

      • berult

        The late, great Steve Jobs talked passionately about three areas of golden opportunities: education, books, and entertainment.

        I agree wholeheartedly with him that paying ‘dividends’ to education trumps paying ‘lick’ service to ranting, over educated investors. How soon we forget…

      • Sacto_Joe

        Even the late, great Steve Jobs didn’t presume to operate Apple Inc as a philanthropic entity. Reponsibility devolves to the individual, as it should. Given that, it’s far more useful to circulate that mass than let it turn into pond scum.

      • Joe_Winfield_IL

        Education/books – major announcement already this year involving both of these items.  iTunesU becoming the de facto for colleges everywhere and iBooks publisher is a great new tool.  The reduced price of iPad2 will be HUGE in the education sector.

        Entertainment is clearly in the works.  I don’t presume to know what exactly Apple has up their sleeve, but it’s obvious they aren’t done in this space.  

        Also, Steve Jobs saw these as PROFIT opportunities, not COST opportunities.  As Apple does more in these spaces, they will only have more cash to deal with.  They are spending everywhere that they can without being stupid, and the money just keeps rolling in.  Would you rather see the company get to $500B in cash, just out of principle?

      • berult

        Who talks about philanthropy here…? An opportunity cost now in education that could lay the groundwork for profit galore later. Don’t underestimate the potency of an iPad in lifting the education level, and the disposable income, of a future constituency in a hurry. 

        Apple investors already own iPads I surmise, and are ruled by the law of cognitive diminishing return. Chances are, most toddlers don’t, while basking in censorial Shangri-la. If I were Apple, I’d play fiddle with my good fortune’s draw…

      • Joe_Winfield_IL

        Apple is literally selling iPads as fast as it can manufacture them.  There is a logjam of demand.  Which of these sales would you propose to shelve in favor of education?  And in what way would you propose to get more into the hands of students faster by avoiding a dividend?  Please use prose and pragmatism in your response if you’re serious, not poetry and high minded ideals.

      • berult

        Apple, a sturdy pillar of a cognitive revolution, should have sent a clear message about its priorities. It may be that they have, …and that I can hardly stand for the perceived break in the idealism continuum.

        As for pragmatism enshrined in prosaic poetry, since it is within my natural comfort zone, if Amazon can get a glorified slate-catalogue out for under $200, with profit deferred to potential future sales of clunk and sundry, couldn’t Apple ship a modest, minimalist, education-centric tablet, with profit deferred to future consumerism savvy… 


      • Joe_Winfield_IL

        Possibly they could create such a product.  And I’d like to see an education-only model anyway, if only to reduce the threat of theft from children.  Something in neon colors perhaps to deter would be buyers of hot goods.

        Amazon lives in the world of clunk and sundry, so the Fire is a fit.  They love the 2% margin business, content to always kick the can down the road on earnings.  They are sucking the soul out of the entire retail world, playing the long con with their wispy profits and ruthless cost cutting.  It’s deemed “good” for consumers because the price is lower.  But at what price?  In contrast, Apple is unabashed in its desire to make profits upfront on everything they do.  In a way, it’s refreshing to me in this modern business world of deferred income, ad-supported platforms, data mining, etc. that Apple is willing to simply make and ship profitable goods.

        I’m sure they’ll address education in ever bigger ways, but you need a bit of patience on this one.  The modern tablet computer literally didn’t exist 2 years ago, and when iPad was announced the world initially scoffed with disdain.  It’s just now coming into its own as a product.

        The dividend is a small gesture to shareholders, and it will have close to zero impact on anything else Apple does.  Don’t read too much into it – Apple dedicated exactly 23 minutes to the topic, and probably won’t mention it again for quite some time.

      • JaneDoe12

        If Apple sold the iPad2  for $200 to schools — I mean if they subsidized it, then a lot more students could have one.  Last September, the Zeeland, Michigan school district bought an iPad for every one of its 1800 high school students, plus all the grammar school kids from 3rd grade up.  They sold a $1.3 million bond to do this.  Zeeland has 5800 people, and the median family income was $53K in 2000.  I think this is a wonderful story, and I imagine there would be so many more schools all over the country buying them if they were sold at cost or lower.

        Mark W. Smith, Detroit Free Press.  iPads for every high school student in Michigan district. USA Today.  Sept 9, 2011.

        Wikipedia – Zeeland, Michigan  – March 1, 2012

  • As a stock holder I am somewhat confused as to what the best options are. The only correlation between  APPL’s stock price and it’s performance that held up was with it’s vast wealth assets. I don’t want them to become the next Microsoft  value stock in the next decade. Yet this dividend seems relatively minor and growth will offset it. So I’m ok with that. I kind of wanted to see them do a more aggressive stock buy back if for no other reason than I like the idea of Apple not having to pander to Wall street. But I honestly can’t say if there would be any benefit to that strategy to my portfolio. I think everyone can agree they have used their money wisely in the supply chain and most could probably agree there are no big companies today Apple needs to acquire. More patent purchases?

    • Joe_Winfield_IL

      “I don’t want them to become the next Microsoft  value stock in the next decade.”  I have to jump on this one, and I’ve seen it written a thousand times all over the interwebs.  You are confusing correlation with causation.  Microsoft didn’t languish through the 2000’s because they were returning cash to shareholders.  The company struggled because its key products reached ubiquity in slow, steady growth markets and it failed to deliver on a next big thing.  If it had simply accumulated cash over the last decade, the stock would not be at some stratospheric level today; instead the market cap would be higher by roughly the amount of cash on the books.

      This dividend does not preclude Apple from being Apple.  At all.  In any way, shape, or form.  It’s inefficient, but does not detract from any aspect of the business.  My guess is that they weighed the inefficiency of double taxation vs the inefficiency of 0% return on cash and decided to throw the value guys a bone with a small piece of future domestic cash flow.

      • I appreciate your reply and I stand corrected

      • Macintosh3

        amen Joe, well put, also Microsofts forward PE was 23 when they started paying their dividend and Apple’s forward PE is 13… 

  • gprovida

    I have to admit this does not sound very strategic, but rather a tactical response to huge and probably about to balloon a lot more by 1 April 2012.  Diminishing dilution sounds good.  One thought that has been voiced, is that Apple keeps the cash around such that if the stock price tanks, it can take itself private.  If the stock tanked to X7-10 P/E then going private is an option.  To tell the truth, I don’t have a good answer for Apple’s enviable problem.  

    • KirkBurgess

      I’ve yet to see an explanation of how apple can “take itself private” – someone has to own it, so a better description would be something like a management buyout. Even then they still have to come up with their own money, they can’t just use the cash apple has. By using the companies cash to buyback shares, it increases the value of the remaining shares still outstanding, it doesn’t mean that apple the company now owns those shares it bought – those shares simply get cancelled.

      • JaneDoe12

         I think there’s a way that they can go private.  Maybe it’s very unlikely, but the Board could contact a private equity company that knows investors who have an interest in buying Apple.  These investors are people who Bill Gates, Sr., the father of Microsoft’s co-founder, spoke of in an interview with USA Today — they are in the top 1% of U.S. households and may have combined wealth as high as $136 trillion [1].  Then the Board would make an offer to the shareholders, e.g. $900/share.  Then there would be a vote, and I think they only need a simply majority, 51%.  I think it would be approved.

        1.  Jim Hopkins.  USA Today.  Gates Sr. supports estate tax.  Jan 12, 2003.   

  • Here is what Tim Cook has done at a cost of $45 billion over three years:

    1) Taken a contentious item off the table, mollifying stockholders while still allowing Apple to continue to grow its cash pile.

    2) Preserved from taxation all of the cash held outside of the U.S.

    3) Added a new class of dividend-only institutional investor.

    Overall, I conclude that this is a strategic maneuver. Sometimes an immediate concession provides a long-term strategic advantage.

    • vatdoro

      I agree with all your points, but the cost is $45 billion over three years, not $10 billion.

      The incredible things is this $45 billion is all future earnings. All of this spending won’t even touch their current cash pile, just slow down future cash growth. Crazy!

      I would also add…

      4) Provide a plan of how Apple will responsibly utilize future cash growth that they don’t need to run the business.

      • Sacto_Joe


        Yep, although I’ve referred to it as a safety valve.

    • Joe_Winfield_IL

      The most rational and succinct comment I’ve read all day!

      • Thank you Joe. The word “succinct” is not normally associated with my writing so I take this as high praise indeed. 🙂

    • berult

      Indeed. All valid bullet points that add up to Tim Cook’s Apple. I fail to retrieve amongst them the imaginative soul that makes it more than the sum of its parts. 

      He could have started off with center stage, he went with the Fourth Wall….

    • KirkBurgess

      I dont think it has solved issue number 1.

      In Horace’s post above it makes it very clear that Apple will keep growing its cash pile to even bigger amounts – if anything the non-use of that cash pile will become an even more contentious item for shareholders.

  • One possible point for the dividend is providing additional income for insiders/directors. If you still believe in the company’s growth and potential stock appreciation, then the dividend is one current way to unlock some income out of the company without selling shares….Creating demand through additional investment opportunities (dividend seeking funds can now buy) is supportive of that case as well.

  • vatdoro

    Robert Paul Laitao had a great comment on the Apple 2.0 Blog.

    He basically says this plan doesn’t effect Apple’s current cash pile, this plan is completely funded by future earnings. I think Horace is kind of making the same point, but it’s a little different way of looking at it.I find it incredible that the dividend and buy backs will literally not effect the current cash hoard, only slow down future cash accumulation.
    Apple is still sitting on a mountain of cash!

    Robert Paul Laitao:
    The quarterly dividend of $2.65 will be amply financed from ongoing domestic operations and will not diminish the company’s current cash holdings of over $100 billion. Apple is currently generating cash at the rate of over $1 billion per week. The annual dividend, at the announced rate, will require an annual cash distribution of just over $10 billion based on an estimated 950 million fully diluted shares by the September quarter.Similarly, the $10 billion in share repurchases over three years can be amply financed over that time from domestic operations. These announcements represent plans for use of cash from ongoing operations rather than a use of the company’s current holdings of cash and marketable securities.The share buyback is intended to neutralize the impact of future share dilution from stock-based compensation rather than a move to diminish the number of shares currently outstanding.The impact of the reinstatement of a regular quarterly dividend is that it will open the floodgates of investment in Apple by conservative mutual funds and institutions that restrict investment to equities that pay a regular dividend.The anticipated rise in the share price and the company’s market value from the resumption of a quarterly dividend program due to the increase in share demand by conservative funds and institutions (as well as small investors who prefer dividend paying stocks) will be far greater than the amount of cash distributed annually through the dividend program.

  • stsk

    As a former CEO, my first response to the plan was really negative: The message a company generally sends when it buys back its own stock is that they believe the shareholders can use the money more effectively than the company – effectively a vote of no-confidence in themselves. A dividend sends the message that the company has lost faith in their growth – they no longer consider themselves to be innovating – they’re a “safe”, blue chip investment. Both focus on stock price – not product innovation or supply-side leverage. Usually, I would consider these the kiss of death for a growth company.

    Then, as with Horace, I ran the numbers… now I think it’s a very good plan. I think it may provide an “excuse” for Apple’s ridiculously undervalued stock price to become more rational, particularly from a P/E perspective. It’s stealthily a cash flow funded program – rather than depleting cash reserves which could be used for product strategy, but done so in a way that shuts up the morons. It also provides “insurance” against the irrational valuation swings to which the stock has historically been prey. The dividend dampens volatility, which makes the company easier to manage as it becomes really LARGE. Overall, the plan is defensive rather than aggressive, but it craftily manages Apple’s critics and detractors on the Street in a skillful way. It’s downside management, but in a GOOD way.

    • Barbwomack

      In reference to your explanations regarding a stock buyback and a dividend payout I don’t agree. Is this why you are a FORMER CEO?

      • stsk

        Were I to stoop to that level, I might say something like…
        1. “No, it’s why you have never been, nor will you ever be one…”
        2. “No, it’s why you’re a current jerk.”
        3. “I guess I was incorrect about it shutting up the morons.”

        … but I wouldn’t stoop to that.

      • Bartwomack, I thought your response was unnecessarily harsh. While such responses are the norm elsewhere, Asymco remains a bastion of civility. Please help keep it that way.


      • stsk

        Thank you. I admit to being a bit shocked at that.

      • You’re very welcome. But I want to cut Bartwomack a break too. Sadly, I fear that I post nastier things than that every day. The cruelty of the anonymous web has corrupted us, or me, at least. I think that Bartwomack was just using normal street language and hadn’t realized that he’d stumbled into the Church of Asymco, where the sanctity of thought its still honored and revered.

        P.S. I liked the thoughts that you expressed in your original post. It was one of the reasons why I was so shocked at Bartwomack’s reply.

    • lb51

      I am not sure why you would find negative “things” about Apple’s decisions based on their current fundamentals and the way the stock has and is being traded.

      • stsk

        Huh? Wow! I don’t know what you think I said, (as with @barbwomack) but I’m quite confident it bears scant resemblance to the point I was making. Without going into a long dissertation on corporate finance strategies, I think what Apple did was, overall, smart. They used aikido on their critics, using their force against them, leaving them in what psychologists call a “double-bind”. In effect, Apple said, “Fine, If the street won’t recognize us as a growth company, but won’t treat us like a blue-chip either, we’ll remove the institutional obstacles to “blue-chip-hood” by announcing a dividend. Then we’ll handle future dilution by buying back some of our stock. We’ll silence the analysts who don’t like us sitting on our cash by making it look like we’re doing these things with our asset stockpile (while we’re actually going to do it with cash flow.) This will allow us to continue to use our cash to insure we maintain growth rates like an aggressive entrepreneurial company, despite the law of large numbers…”   So… what part of that do you disagree with?

  • I think the effect of the dividend is to increase the focus on the corporate strategy. It was a significant distraction answering all the analysts from wall street for Tim Cook and Peter Oppenheimer.
    The size of the dividend indicates that the Apple management expects the income growth to accelerate rather than slow down. 
    Reducing the total shares outstanding is another way of addressing the grumbling of the pension fund investors.
    Having addressed the two murmurs in the stock market the board and management can go about increasing the moat around the business.

  • Z Kariv

    Does anyone knows: can Apple pay out of country investers with out of country cash?
    Also–it might be prudent to invest in education by some discounting computers and Ipads as to capture this segment on a long term basis and eventually capture its users on a long term basis. A $0.5B of a $50.00 discount on Ipad2 (equal 12.5%) is about 100M units. Will drop margins to around 30% on this units but will offset by eliminating compatitors, rise in investment in other Apple products (not only by students but also for private usage of families, staff and administration), further enhancing buying power, gaining favorable PR

    • Sacto_Joe

      Apple already discounts heavily to education. They’ve done that for decades.

    • Dajhilton

      As an out of country investor in Apple, I think that I can safely say that Apple does not know that I am out of the country (the country being USA, of course).  So to answer your question:  I think it is unlikely that Apple can pay my upcoming dividends with out of country cash.

  • Greg

    I have watched the price of my stock increase from the ~$10 I bought in at, and fell quite blessed with its performance. As to why I think a small dividend is a good thing, I shall be retiring in a few years, and I would like to continue holding APPL. But I can’t eat a stock certificate.

    It seems that my brief reading of what has happened indicates there is very little effect on the cash accumulation, and none on the current value. Seems a good move.

  • rmitch

    To those who say dividends make no sense or are of little value to investors:  I hold 10M shares of AAPL.  I’m all in on it.  The dividend will mean $106,000 per year to me.  That makes a lot of sense to me

    • lb51

      Kudos, I also purchased over 14,000 shares in 2002 and the payout is a great low cost for me to enjoy the large capital gains without having my exposure reduced.

    • Damon

       I suspect there’s a typo in your post.  10 million shares is almost double the number Steve Jobs held last year. 

      • lb51

        I took he was using M for thousands in Roman numeral and then implying MM for millions.

      • rmitch

        Sorry, Damon … yes, I did mean 10,000 shares.

    • rmitch

      Sorry, mistake here.  Comment to Damon already posted

    • Joe

      10 Million shares of AAPL? Then I think your dividend calculation is off just a bit…

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  • lb51

    Why repurchase?

    Management has great confidence and perceives undervaluation.

    Repurchase is the best return compared to alternatives.

    My favorite, since Apple knows how to create demand, repurchase to create demand.

    Historically, repurchases has allowed stocks to outperform market by 12% – 15% for the next 3-4 years ( no guarantee ).

    Rising corporate profits dictates such a move.

    A nice tax efficient distribution of earnings.

    An executive compensation package that is tied to EPS performance (Tim Cook)

    Why pay dividends?

    Reduce risk assumed by agency theory to avoid asset/capital structures that give managers wide discretion to make value-reducing investments.

    When a companies are strongly able to self finance internal projects, the potential to reduce stockholder wealth is greatly increased.

    Overall, I like the strategy. It’s a good risk reduction management style and it fits Apple very nicely.

    • It is my understanding Cook has excluded his incentive package from dividends, thus tying his incentives to the stock price

      • lb51

        Thanks, however, my mention is in reference to stock price and not dividends. Please see items listed below “Why repurchase?” It’s the last statement before I moved onto dividends.

    • Billykunz

      AAPL wants to increase the shareholder base but a buy back makes fewer shares available to newcomers. I’d rather they skip the buy back and increase the dividend.

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  • David

    I understand the dividend: Apple has way more cash than they can use and there’s not much to invest it in. With so much cash, any investment would make Apple a major shareholder in almost any industry it chose. Not something a good investment. A dividend helps lower the excess cash while rewarding shareholders. At the current dividend and growth rate, it won’t make much of a dent in the cash horde, yet keeps it from getting even bigger. Apple still has enough cash to throw around its weight.

    Usually, companies release dividends when growth is expected to be slow, but the business still generates lots of cash. That way investors will still be attracted even if the stock price doesn’t grow. But, Apple is different. The stock price is still going up, but the company simply can’t afford to sit on all of that cash.The cash buy back is strange. Usually, you do this when a company has a lot of cash and there’s a lot of downward pressure on the price of its stock. Apple has a lot of cash, but the stock price is going through the roof.

    • ChKen

      But it is still cheap.

  • berult

    “When it comes to capital, Apple is not innovative. Which is as it should be.”

    Has one ever seen an artist, a ground breaker, a core innovator who can dichotomize between the financials and the creation as though creative chaos ought to come to an orderly stop at an investment banker’s notice?

    If creative chaos is to be replicated, it ought to have its financial backbone in likewise disorder. Lasting external asymmetry feeds on colluding internal symmetries.

    The above quote makes sense in Tim Cook business world. Not in Steve Jobs intuitive domain.

    • berult

      Sorry for the double posts. I thought the first one didn’t go through…

    • Jakemiller7

      It’s okay I understand your using internet explorer on a PC.  haha

  • berult

    “When it comes to capital, Apple is not innovative. Which is as it should be.”

    Has one ever seen an artist, a ground breaker, a core innovator who can dichotomize between the financials and the creation as though creative chaos ought to come to an orderly stop at an investment banker’s notice?

    If creative chaos is to be replicated, it ought to have its financial backbone in likewise disorder. Lasting external asymmetry feeds on colluding internal symmetries.

    The above quote makes sense in Tim Cook business world. Not in Steve Jobs intuitive domain.

    • Sharon Sharalike

      “If creative chaos is to be replicated, it ought to have its financial backbone in likewise disorder.”


      • berult

        Coherence. You pattern your spending within the geometric poles of your intuition; your bread and butter so to speak. If you don’t, you henceforth lose the pricelessness in your creation. You render it finite as though it were by your own admittance limited by your banker’s convoluted geometry.

      • berult

        “Admittance” should read admission. Apology.

      • Sam Wilson

        So, please explain how, prior to 9 months ago, Apple had chaos in its financials? Your theory doesn’t stand up in the face of the facts. Apple’s solid financial foundation has provided the firm footing on which seemingly “crazy” and “insane” creativity could take place. Or, perhaps your theory holds up, but your assumption that Apple’s creative process under Jobs was “chaotic” does not. Perhaps that’s your own perception of what is, in reality, a very orderly and thoughtful process. And, if that is true, then perhaps we have not so much to fear in the orderly and thoughtful management of Tim Cook and the ongoing creative endeavors of Apple’s team.

      • berult

        Apple’s creative process wrapped around Steve Jobs’ intuition. With systemic to and fros. Steve Jobs created an institution finely tuned to his idiosyncratic thought process. That is where you find relative chaos, within the beholder. It doesn’t look and behave chaotically because it has become systemically, organically coherent.

        ‘Chaos’ has expanded into an alter ego ecosystem and becomes transcendent enough to alter the very fabric of its ‘eyeing’ environment. If you get down to it, you’ll find symmetrical patterns throughout this living, breathing organism and their coming together reflect some sort of extraordinary order encoded in the resident chaos within the point of origin.

        Tim Cook used to be a fundamental cog in Steve Jobs’ ecosystem. But can he ever be the luminous point of origin? I’m afraid not… He’s too strategic and not crazy enough…

      • berult

        Apple’s creative process wrapped around Steve Jobs’ intuition. With systemic to and fros. Steve Jobs created an institution finely tuned to his idiosyncratic thought process. That is where you find relative chaos, within the beholder. It doesn’t look and behave chaotically because it has become systemically, organically coherent.

        ‘Chaos’ has expanded into an alter ego ecosystem and becomes transcendent enough to alter the very fabric of its ‘eyeing’ environment. If you get down to it, you’ll find symmetrical patterns throughout this living, breathing organism and their coming together reflect some sort of extraordinary order encoded in the resident chaos within the point of origin.

        Tim Cook used to be a fundamental cog in Steve Jobs’ ecosystem. But can he ever be the luminous point of origin? I’m afraid not… He’s too strategic and not crazy enough…

      • gabriel_ca

        I’m not necessarily going to dispute your points, time will tell wether you are correct or not (I agree with some points, and disagree with others), but you seriously need to stop using words in bizarre ways (that I can only assume is to try and sound more intelligent).  It just makes it harder for those you are debating with to actually debate (giving you false sense of “winning” said debate).

        eg: alter ego ecosystem?  An ecosystem has an ego?  really?  If there is no ego, there is no alter ego.  That’s just one example.

      • berult

        Your assumption is most probably correct. See reply to Mr. Nosuch above. Let me correct if I may: ‘alter ego’ ecosystem instead of alter ego ecosystem. Thanks.

      • Nobend

         You sir, are the greatest troll ever. Fantastic stuff. You spout incoherent nonsense and yet people engage seriously with it. Brilliant!!

    • Sacto_Joe

      We get it. Tim Cook is no Steve Jobs. For Apple, there will never be another Steve Jobs. One per customer. Signed, God.

    • “If creative chaos is to be replicated, it ought to have its financial backbone in likewise disorder.”

      That statement leads me to believe you don’t understand how corporate finance works.

      “Lasting external asymmetry feeds on colluding internal symmetries.”

      That’s some fine, but utterly meaningless buzzword salad you got there.

      Nothing about Apple’s success comes from “creative chaos”. It comes from design excellence, which isn’t just about creativity, but also discipline and process.

      • berult

        I understand merely half of what I should, as for the other half, I …grandstand on my ignorance.

        I wish you could encounter my more knowledgeable half, but then my conscience wouldn’t forgive my utter lack of grace and compassion for knowingly letting you grandstand on yours.

        Do my conscience a favor, do have the last laugh…

      • Dooley

        Take an English course, fuckwit.

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  • Lots of good comments here. I will just add that getting conservative investors on board a rapidly rising tech stock is no easy task. By starting slowly with a modest dividend, Apple can slowly increase the dividend in a predictable manner. With simple regression analysis pension managers and their consultants can confirm each other that Apple indeed is a good and safe dividend investment. With a few years of dividend history and solid sales (growth) it will present an alternative to credit investments, that are now both low yielding and not as safe as used to be.

    This is a long term play to attract conservative big money (the opposite of the CNBC crowd).

  • markrogo

    I took a spin at this topic, from a holistic point of view:

  • joelypolly

    I think it is an interesting way to force the hand of other technology firms that so far haven’t been paying dividends. Right now given Apple’s growth, profits and dividend payments how will other companies in the sector compete for investors?

    • Actually, I imagine it’s the best way for the company to continue to grow without Steve Jobs. Steve was a huge engine powering the company and a guarantee: 1. for innovation – in the eyes of the consumers; 2. for stock holders – their stocks’ value would continue to grow. In a post-Jobs era, the market is still skeptical. And I think despite the sales and the growth rate, this skepticism is what made Cook & co. pay these dividends. Basically, he made sure the company will continue to grow on Wall Street. This, I think, is more of an investment in Apple’s own investors’ trust.
      Maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know. It’s just a thought.

      • Fake Tim Cook

        Is that why the stock has skyrocketed since his death?

      • @e63756cec1dcca288a785f33d8f88974:disqus Nope, that’s because of the sales. And if you want me to look like a blonde, I’ll just add “duh!”.
        You see, I’m pretty much of an Apple heavy user. For me, Jobs’ death STILL IS an issue. I know Tim Cook is a great CEO and will do a great job, but I still have a trust issue. And that’s because Cook is a damn good businessman, but I have no idea how good of an “innovationman” he is. That was Jobs’ territory. And the main reason I – and, probably, most of Apple’s old clients – buy their products is that they do change the damn world, one way or the other. It’s not just a simple plain consumerist reason, it’s more than that.
        So, it’s a trust issue regarding the quality of their future products more than anything else. For me – and those clients -, that issue is about hoping Apple will not compromise quality for cash. Jobs wouldn’t have done that. We have no idea what Cook would do.
        I hope you get the point.

  • Boltar

    I think knowing Apple’s general constant awareness of what might happen in a severe downturn or dry spell for them is also important. Having almost lost the company in the late 90s had to sharpen their awareness that it’s best to survive to fight again another day. A huge cash horde is a dangerous thing in the event of a dramatic drop in stock price: too much temptation as a buyout target.

    The dividend and stock buyout make sense at a lot of levels.

  • I made the same sort of calculations when I heard about the dividends and buyback and assumed it was done to SHUT UP WALL STREET.

    Wall St can no longer waste valuable time whining about no dividends and no benefit to shareholders. They’re getting their payback, so Apple can concentrate on more important things.

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