STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
NPR's business news starts with Apple's giant pile of money.
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INSKEEP: The maker of iPads, iPhones and computers is sitting on almost one hundred billion dollars in cash and securities. And today, Apple announced that it will spend some of that money paying a stock dividend to shareholders and buying back some company stock. NPR's Steve Henn has been following developments, and joins us on the line from Silicon Valley. Steve, good morning.
STEVE HENN, BYLINE: Good morning.
INSKEEP: What makes it a big deal, that this company would pay a dividend?
HENN: Well, Apple hasn't paid a dividend for roughly 17 years, and for decades people have thought of it as a growth stock. People haven't looked to Apple to provide income. So, the fact that they are paying a dividend, and they'll start paying a dividend in July, means that a whole new group of investors are going to be attracted to this stock, people who look at it - or who will look at it as a source of income.
INSKEEP: Although this does raise a question: Why Apple would feel the need to pay a dividend now and get rid of some of its cash, given that they haven't had any trouble driving up the stock price without paying dividends?
HENN: Yeah. The stock price is up almost 45 percent so far this year. A lot of analysts think that that's in part because people were expecting them to pay a dividend. The thing is, you know, lots of tech companies have a big pile of cash. Microsoft has roughly 50 billion dollars, Google has 40 billion dollars. The thing that makes Apple different is the scale. Last quarter alone, it sold 37 million iPhones and generated $13 billion in new profits, sort of adding to its cash hoard. To put that in perspective, it earned more in profits than Google took in in revenue before it paid any of its employees.
INSKEEP: Hmm. Wow, that's kind of amazing. So, they just have amazing amounts of money coming in and they felt that it was time to deploy some of it?
HENN: Yeah, I think that's right. They really had more money than they knew what to do with. Apple, unlike Google and Microsoft, has never really bought another company for tens of billions of dollars. And so, this was a chance for them to give something that many shareholders had been asking for; which was some income.
And they are also going to be buying back some of their stock.
HENN: You know, they give out stock options every year, so they're going to prevent dilution of their stock by...
INSKEEP: Let me understand, that 10 - you're talking about the $10 billion buyback. Why would they do that, in a couple of seconds?
HENN: Well, they do that because as they issue new stock, it's sort of like printing money. They dilute the value of the stock for existing shareholders. So to prevent that, they're going to buy back roughly the same amount of stock that they give out to new employees. That will sort of maintain the value of Apple stock for existing shareholders and prevent it from decreasing in value over time.
INSKEEP: Steve, thanks very much.
HENN: Sure thing.
INSKEEP: NPR's Steve Henn, with an Apple development that underlines just how much money the company is making. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.