Apple declares first dividend in 16 years

Company, flush with cash, rewards shareholders with dividend, stock buyback

Apple, eager to do something with its $100 billion in cash, on Monday announced its first shareholder dividend in 16 years. Shares of Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) reached as high as 599.00, a gain of 2.3%, in early Monday trading before falling back to 591.45 by 10:30 a.m. The company, fresh off the successful launch of its third-generation iPad tablet, said in an unusual early Monday press conference that it would pay a quarterly stock dividend of $2.65 beginning in its fiscal fourth quarter, which begins in July. Apple also said its board of directors authorized a $10 billion share buyback, another move designed to placate restless shareholders eager to be rewarded for their brilliant decision to invest in what is now the most valuable public company in the world with a market capitalization of $551.45 billion. The stock buyback will take place over three years and is set to begin in September 2013. Apple's dividend announcement was expected. The company has been under pressure to reward shareholders as its cash reserves accumulated. The company routinely paid dividends in the past, but discontinued the practice in 1995. Once Apple co-founder Steve Jobs -- not known to be overly concerned about shareholder sentiment -- rejoined the company in 1997, dividends were off the table. Jobs, of course, died last October after a long struggle with cancer. His hand-picked successor as CEO, Tim Cook, has signaled a willingness to do things differently than Jobs -- and, indeed, was discouraged by his predecessor from dwelling on "what Steve would do." Shares of Apple are up 45% this year through Friday's trading. And get this: Apple shares are worth 73 times what they were in December 1995, the last time a dividend was declared. So if you've been a shareholder that long, your patience (and prescience) has been rewarded many times over.

Chris Nerney writes ITworld's Tech Business Today blog. Follow Chris on Twitter at @ChrisNerney. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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