Apple Announces Dividend, Share Buyback

In major about-face, a portion of record cash hoard to be distributed to investors starting in July.

Steve Jobs was not a fan, but Steve is no longer with us. Apple Inc. (AAPL) announced Monday its first dividend since 1995, a move long awaited by investors as the company increasingly added to its cash reserves that have reached a record $98 billion. The quarterly dividend and share buyback will distribute $45 billion over three years.

The payout, beginning in July, will equal $2.65 a share in July. Also, beginning next fiscal year, the company will buy back up to $10 billion of its stock.

Reuters reports the annual dividend program, which will be reviewed periodically, ranks among the largest current U.S. corporate cash payouts.

“We have used some of our cash to make great investments in our business through increased research and development, acquisitions, new retail store openings, strategic prepayments and capital expenditures in our supply chain, and building out our infrastructure. You’ll see more of all of these in the future,” CEO Tim Cook said on the company’s website. “Even with these investments, we can maintain a war chest for strategic opportunities and have plenty of cash to run our business. So we are going to initiate a dividend and share repurchase program.”

“Combining dividends, share repurchases, and cash used to net-share-settle vesting RSUs, we anticipate utilizing approximately $45 billion of domestic cash in the first three years of our programs,” Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO, added. “We are extremely confident in our future and see tremendous opportunities ahead.”

The buyback program will seek to offset the impact of employee stock options and equity grants, according to Reuters.

Its annual dividend yield will be around 1.8%, which ranks above Oracle Corp and IBM but falls just short of the average of around 2.4% for companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index.

However, as Brent Conway points out in his blog at Barrons.com, the dividend immediately makes Apple one of the biggest dividend-payers among U.S. companies, and the decision will give the many mutual funds and ETFs that own AAPL some of what they want.

Apple last paid a dividend in 1995, according Reuters. In 1996, the company posted a net loss of $816 million.

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