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Investor sues Apple, wants more cash

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 7, 2013 at 7:02 pm •  Published: February 7, 2013
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NEW YORK (AP) — With its annual meeting looming and its stock on the decline, Apple is facing a rebellion from an influential investor who wants the company to stop stockpiling cash and give it to shareholders instead.

Greenlight Capital said Thursday that it is suing Apple in a New York federal court over the company's proposal to make it more difficult for it to issue preferred stock. David Einhorn, who heads the investment fund, said the proposal would close down one avenue for Apple to reward shareholders with more cash.

Preferred stock is designed primarily as a way for companies to deliver a fixed income to shareholders. It differs from common stock, which generally doesn't promise a regular flow of income but rather is a wager on a company's long-term growth.

Apple is still the world's most valuable company, but its stock has lost 35 percent of its value since September, as it's become obvious that its once-rapid growth has slowed down. The company is fabulously profitable, and Wall Street wants the company to share more of that money with its shareholders rather than tucking it away in low-yielding bank accounts.

"Apple has $145 per share of cash on its balance sheet. As a shareholder, this is your money," Einhorn said in a letter to the company. He has a history of criticizing companies publicly, often after shorting their stocks.

In a statement Thursday, Apple said its management and board continue "active discussions" about what to do with the money, and it will take Einhorn's proposal into consideration.

Its $137 billion in cash makes up nearly a third of Apple's stock market value. Shares of the Cupertino, Calif., company traded at $456.95 in the late afternoon, up $2.25, or 0.5 percent, from Wednesday's close.

Corporations normally don't hoard cash the way Apple does. They keep enough on hand for immediate needs, and either invest the rest in their operations or hand it out to shareholders in the form of dividends or stock buybacks. If they need more cash for, say, an acquisition, they borrow it.

Einhorn told CNBC on Thursday that Apple was acting like his grandmother "Roz," who grew up during the Great Depression. People who've experienced financial trauma, he said "sometimes feel like they can never have enough cash."

Roz was so careful about saving money, Einhorn said, that she never left messages on his answering machine out of concern that she'd be charged for the call.

Einhorn's criticism hints at Apple's lean years in the mid-90s. Former CEO Steve Jobs came out of that experience with a very tight hold on the company's purse strings. Apple has never explained its reasons for hoarding the cash other than to say it is preserving its options. Since his death in Oct. 2011, Apple has begun paying a quarterly dividend of $2.65 per share and started to repurchase some of its shares.

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