Apple, changing to the core, offers dividend

Heidi Moore Mar 19, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: $601.10. That was the close for Apple this afternoon. Could have been because the new iPad had a record opening weekend — lots and lots of them sold.

Or it could have been because — for the first time in 18 years — the company’s going to be giving away money. CEO Tim Cook announced a dividend this morning. Investors will get $2.65 for every share they own.

Our New York bureau chief Heidi Moore explains that with as much money as it had in the bank, Apple didn’t really have a choice.

Heidi Moore: When I think of Apple, I think of Donald Duck’s uncle, Scrooge McDuck, doing his daily dive into his giant bin of gold. After all, Apple’s been sitting on nearly $100 billion of cash.

Jason Voss, at the CFA Institute for financial analysts, counted it out for me.

Jason Voss: Apple has 3,200 years that it could spend a dollar a second and not run out of money. Which is the length of written human history, essentially.

Having that much cash is actually not a good thing. You know how you get a pathetic 1 percent to 2 percent interest rate on the money in your savings account? It’s the same for Corporate America.

Here’s Voss again.

Voss: The question as a shareholder is: Why can’t I have some of that cash?

Companies including Apple or Microsoft can soothe its investors by giving them a quarterly dividend. It’s a regular payment of cash.

Robert Pozen: Having a dividend’s a sure thing.

That’s Robert Pozen, a lecturer at the Harvard Business School and a former vice chairman of Fidelity Investments.

Steve Jobs, Apple’s late CEO, opposed a dividend. He thought it would be like admitting that Apple is an old-fashioned, slow-growing company that has to pay its shareholders cash to keep them happy. Apple considers itself sleek and fast-growing.

Oliver Pursche is the president of Gary Goldberg Financial Services, which is an Apple shareholder. He says Apple investors want it all: both cash and and growth.

Oliver Pursche: Every quarter, the clock starts anew for them, and they have to sell more iPods, iPads, iPhones and i-whatevers.

One thing that keeps growing is the company’s stock price: A share of Apple in 2009 was worth $90; now it’s close to $600.

In New York, I’m Heidi Moore for Marketplace.

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