Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) announced an unprecedented share buyback program and boosted its dividend in attempts to pacify edgy investors who have watched the company’s stock tumble about 34% over the past six months.
The iPhone maker will return $100 billion of cash to shareholders by 2015, through an increased dividend and $60 billion share buyback program. Apple’s quarterly dividend was sweetened 15% to $3.05 a share. The stock now carries a juicy 3% yield. The new dividend is payable on May 16 to shareholders of record May 13.
With an annual payment of some $11 billion, Apple becomes the biggest dividend payer in corporate America, taking the crown from Exxon Mobil Corp (NYSE:XOM).
In addition, the share repurchase program which will commence this month and is expected to be completed by the end of calendar 2015, is the single largest authorized buyback in history.
“We are very fortunate to be in a position to more than double the size of the capital return program we announced last year,” CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. “We believe so strongly that repurchasing our shares represents an attractive use of our capital that we have dedicated the vast majority of the increase in our capital return program to share repurchases.”
Something to note: For a tax benefit, Apple isn’t tapping its $144.7 billion cash stash (up $7.6 billion from Q1) to boost shareholders’ returns. Instead, taking advantage of record low interest rates, it will take on debt.
Apple Stock Dividend the Best News from Earnings Report
Apple’s move came amid lackluster Q2 earnings and dreary forward guidance.
Here’s a summary of what Apple delivered:
- Sales: $43.603 billion, up 11.3% year-over-year
- iPhone: 37.43 units, up 6.7%
- iPad: 19.5 million units, up 65.3%
- Mac: 3.952 million units, down 1.6%
- iPod: 5.633 million units down 26.6%
- iTunes Software: $4.114 billion, up 30%
- Net profit: $9.5 billion, down 18.3%
- Earnings per share: $10.09, down 18%
- Gross margin: 37.5%
Looking ahead, Apple’s revenue and gross margin guidance were $33.5 billion-$33.5 billion and 36% – 37% respectively. Both were below analysts’ expectations of $38.6 billion in sales and a 38.6% gross margin.
“The outlook doesn’t look great,” Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy told the Los Angeles Times. I don’t think the Street is going to like that. This is what most of the consternation on Wall Street has been about.”
Apple Stock Outlook
Since peaking at $705.07 last September, Apple shares have been nearly sliced in half. CEO Tim Cook acknowledged that growth had slowed and upset the apple cart.
“The decline in Apple’s stock price over the last couple quarters has been very frustrating to all of us,” Cook acknowledged on a conference call.
Even with shares priced almost half-off, Apple’s still no bargain.
“I don’t think Apple is undervalued at all,” Money Morning’s Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald said, referring to Goldman Sachs’ statement that AAPL was the “most undervalued stock” the company covers.
Pressure to increase earnings and diminished value in the years ahead will continue to weigh on the Apple stock price.
In addition, Fitz-Gerald explained, Apple has lost its cool factor. The company “as it is now oozes MBAs, where it used to ooze innovation.”
Indeed, that is Apple’s big problem.
Many investors and analysts felt that Apple’s $144.7 billion cash stash (up $7.6 billion from Q1) could be better spent on innovation, and were disappointed that Apple failed to announce a new product.
There’s chatter that an Apple Watch, Apple TV or souped up iPhone or iPad is in the works, but nothing new from Apple is likely until the fall at the earliest.
Moreover, Fitz-Gerald calls such devices “non-starters.”
Shares rose 3.3% in after-hours trading following earnings, and the stock was up only 0.16% at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, trading just below $407.
With nothing fresh expected any time soon, and Apple now trading like a stodgy blue chip instead of a high-flying tech company, little upside is expected from the stock for the near future.
Bottom line: “No… I would not buy Apple,” Fitz-Gerald said.
Check out our full interview with Keith Fitz-Gerald regarding Apple stock.
This article is brought to you courtesy of Diane Alter from Money Morning.
Related ETF: Technology Select Sector SPDR (NYSEARCA:XLK)
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