Why Apple's Giving Back So Much Money to Its Investors

Why Apple's Giving Back So Much Money to Its Investors

Of course Wall Street is happy with Apple's latest earnings report: it included the company's biggest dividends and biggest buyback program ever, which increases its capital return program from $10 to $60 billion—and its quarterly dividend 15 percent. So that's one way to calm everyone down.

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Apple announced late Tuesday afternoon that it plans to give a big pile of its enormous pile of $145 billion in cash back to those investors. And so, just like that, Apple stock was up about 3.25 percent an hour after trading. "We are very fortunate to be in a position to more than double the size of the capital return program we announced last year," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an earnings statement. "We believe so strongly that repurchasing our shares represents an attractive use of our capital that we have dedicated the vast majority of the increase in our capital return program to share repurchases."  

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Apple has so much money—enough to pay each American $470 dollars—that investors would have been extra angry if the company didn't give some of it back. Indeed, our brothers at Quarz report that Apple "had initially planned to wait until after this earnings report to announce that it would return more of its $137 billion cash stock pile to investors," but that was before everyone was freaking out about Tuesday's prospects following a recent slide. Shareholders need some extra coddling this time around, it seems, but the Q1 report itself actually didn't look as bad as analysts and everyone else had expected: iPhone demand was strong, with Apple selling 37.4 million iPhones, compared to 35.1 million a year ago. Revenue also beat analyst expectations, $43.6 billion to the anticipated $42.3 billion.

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So everything is pretty much okay in Apple land. For now, at least: The company's guidance for the next quarter isn't that great: 

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  • revenue between $33.5 billion and $35.5 billion

  • gross margin between 36 percent and 37 percent

  • operating expenses between $3.85 billion and $3.95 billion

  • other income/(expense) of $300 million

  • tax rate of 26%

Then again, during the Q4 earnings call Cook mentioned that he would attempt to give more realistic guidance than in previous quarters. This is a reflection of that—and the new reality that Apple has lower margin products. You know, like the iPad Mini selling so well.