Tuesday 20 February 2018

Activist investor wants bigger bite of Apple’s cash hoard

Greenlight Capital chief David Einhorn
Greenlight Capital chief David Einhorn

Barbara Ortutay

AN activist investor wants Apple to distribute more of its ballooning cash hoard to shareholders.

Greenlight Capital said it was suing Apple in a New York federal court over the company's proposal to eliminate preferred stock. David Einhorn, who heads Greenlight, said the proposal would prevent Apple's board from unlocking shareholder value.

Apple, the world's most valuable company, is drawing increasing criticism from investors who are pushing the company to do more with its enormous pile of cash – $137bn (€102bn) and growing.

Mr Einhorn told CNBC yesterday that Apple has a Depression-era mentality. He compared Apple to his grandmother 'Roz', who grew up during the Great Depression.

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

People who've experienced trauma "sometimes feel like they can never have enough cash".

Apple started paying a quarterly dividend last year, but at $2.65 per share, the payout is paltry considering the amount of cash Apple generates each quarter.

Apple has also started to repurchase some of its shares, but Greenlight and others say it should be pushing its cash in another direction.

Greenlight, a shareholder since 2010 with 1.3 million Apple shares, said it was dissatisfied with the way the company allocated capital. Mr Einhorn said his firm has been talking to Apple for months about the creation of new preferred class of stock that would be distributed to shareholders.

Apple, he said, rejected the idea in September. The company doesn't currently issue preferred stock. But the proposal Mr Einhorn opposes would eliminate the Apple board's ability to issue such shares without shareholder approval.

In a letter to Apple shareholders, Greenlight called Apple a "phenomenal company filled with talented people creating iconic products that consumers around the world love". But it said the company has an "obligation to examine all options to create and unlock additional value."

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