Apple chief executive Tim Cook sought to assure shareholders Wednesday that the company is working on some "great stuff" that may help reverse a sharp decline in its stock price.
True to Apple's secretive nature, Cook didn't provide any further product details during the company's annual shareholders meeting Wednesday. There has been speculation that Apple is working on an Internet-connected watch or TV, while one shareholder recommended that Apple develop a computerized bicycle. Cook, an avid bicyclist, chuckled at the suggestion, along with the rest of the audience.
Apple's stock fell $4.40, or 0.98 percent, to $444.57, at the close of trading Wednesday. Since hitting an all-time high of $705.07 five months ago, Apple's stock has plunged by more than a third. The decline has wiped out collective shareholder wealth totaling $240 billion.
Shareholder pressure prompted Apple to start paying a dividend of $2.65 per share on its common stock last year. That translates into $10 billion in annual dividend payments, but influential investor David Einhorn, who runs the Greenlight Capital hedge fund, believes the company should be dispensing even more money rather than let more cash accumulate in its bank accounts. Apple began this year with $137 billion, up from nearly $98 billion at the start of 2012. The amount keeps growing as Apple sells more iPads and iPhones.
Cook told shareholders Wednesday that Apple's board is still exploring what to do with its cash.
That indecision drew a rebuke from New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who is the sole trustee of New York's $153 billion pension fund. The pension fund holds 2.9 million shares of Apple stock valued at $1.3 billion.
"We were disappointed that Apple did not offer a proposal to return to shareholders some of the $137 billion in cash reserves it is holding," DiNapoli said in a statement. Nearly 11 months ago the fund held 3.2 million Apple shares. then valued at $1.94 billion.
Although Apple is selling more gadgets than ever before, the company's profits and sales aren't growing as robustly because of fiercer competition from a multitude of other smartphones and tablet computers that typically cost less.
With Ted Phillips