Apple responds to recent calls for it to return cash to shareholders

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Apple has just issued a statement regarding its commitment to return some of its extremely large—now more than $130 billion— cash pile to shareholders, saying that the company and its Board of Directors are in “active discussions” on what to do with its money.

The comment follows a press release sent to Apple investors this morning by Greenlight Capital, a major Apple shareholder, calling for the Cupertino-based iPhone maker to stop ‘hoarding its cash,’ and start returning some of it to its large base of stock holders…

Greenlight Capital’s high-profile hedge fund manager David Einhorn feels so strongly about the issue, that he has actually filed a lawsuit against Apple. The filing, as reported by Reuters, claims that shareholders deserve a larger amount of Apple’s $137 billion cash hoard.

Here’s Apple’s just-issued statement in response to this morning’s Greenlight Capital press release :

“By early last year, Apple’s cash balance had built to a point beyond what we needed to run our business and maintain flexibility to take advantage of strategic opportunities, so we announced a plan to return $45 billion to shareholders over three years. As of next week we will have executed $10 billion of that plan.

We find ourselves in the fortunate position of continuing to generate large amounts of cash, including $23 billion in cash flow from operations in the last quarter alone.

Apple’s management team and Board of Directors have been in active discussions about returning additional cash to shareholders. As part of our review, we will thoroughly evaluate Greenlight Capital’s current proposal to issue some form of preferred stock. We welcome Greenlight’s views and the views of all of our shareholders.

As a part of our efforts to further enhance corporate governance and serve our shareholders’ best interests, Proposal #2 in our proxy includes some recommended changes to our articles of incorporation. These changes were recommended independently of Greenlight’s proposal and would not preclude Apple from adopting their concept. Contrary to Greenlight’s statements, adoption of Proposal #2 would not prevent the issuance of preferred stock. Currently, Apple’s articles of incorporation provide for the issuance of “blank check” preferred stock by the Board of Directors without shareholder approval. If Proposal #2 is adopted, our shareholders would have the right to approve the issuance of preferred stock. As such, Proposal #2 has the support of many of our shareholders.

We remain committed to having an ongoing dialogue with our shareholders to get perspectives around return of capital and driving shareholder value.”

Folks have long been calling for Apple to do something with its money, and giving it back to its investors—who have watched their shares drop some $250 over the last 6 months—seems like a good start. Unsurprisingly, Apple’s stock has climbed 3% following the above statement.