Why Apple Playing the Grinch This Christmas Is Good for Business

The holiday season is fast upon us. And this year, the world's most valuable company is doubling as the Grinch who stole Christmas. No, Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) CEO Tim Cook hasn't disguised himself as Dr. Seuss' fictional character, but rather the company has earned a Grinchy reputation through its reluctance to issue a special cash dividend, something many other U.S. businesses are doing.

As it stands, hundreds of public companies have come out of the woodwork recently to declare one-time special dividends, payable before year's end. Last month, 228 such companies emerged, according to reports from The Wall Street Journal. This surge in payouts is a reaction to possible tax increases that could go into effect in early 2013.

Familiar names, such as Whole Foods (NASDAQ: WFM  ) , Costco (NASDAQ: COST  ) , and Las Vegas Sands (NYSE: LVS  ) have all caught dividend fever. Whole Foods plans to pay a special cash dividend of $2 a share on Dec. 21, whereas Costco issued a generous $7 per share payout due on Dec. 18. Meanwhile, casino operator Las Vegas Sands took matters a step further promising shareholders a one-time payout of $2.75 per share -- or close to 6% of its share price.

Keeping with the anti-dividend holiday spirit
With all of these companies seemingly putting stakeholders first, where does Apple get off being greedy with its cash hoard? As fellow Fool Rick Munarriz points out, the Mac maker pulled in more than $50 billion in operating cash flow over the last year alone. That's boatloads more than both Whole Foods and Costco combined. Still, Apple has yet to follow suit and declare a one-time special payout -- a wise decision, in my opinion.

I see this as Apple's way of reassuring shareholders that it can successfully put its cash to work by reinvesting in its own businesses. After all, isn't this what we used to love about Apple when it was everyone's favorite growth stock?

Earlier this year, Apple gave in to the markets' will and issued its first quarterly dividend since 1995. However, I agree with analysts at Deutsche Bank who insist "the company is more focused on building a track record of predictable dividend growth" rather than indulging shareholders in a one-time special payout just because everyone else is doing it.

Apple isn't known as being peer-pressured into business decisions, and this time is no different. Everyone knows that Apple is good for the money. The tech giant's balance sheet reflects a whopping $121 billion (and counting) in cash and marketable securities. But, perhaps, Apple's reluctance to issue a special dividend indicates that the company has devised a better way to spend its cash. Whatever the case, the role of Grinch is necessary, as it reminds us what's really important. Bigger picture, these one-time dividend payouts will have little impact on the shareholders whom receive them or the companies issuing them.

Either way, I believe shares of Apple are worth buying into the new year. If you're looking for more insight, I encourage you to check out our updated analyst research report on Apple.

There's no doubt that Apple is at the center of technology's largest revolution ever, and that longtime shareholders have been handsomely rewarded with over 1,000% gains. However, there is a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on both reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple, and what opportunities are left for the company (and more importantly, your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.


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  • Report this Comment On December 04, 2012, at 6:22 PM, EquityBull wrote:

    I respectfully disagree. Apple has not shown it has better uses for 128B in capital on the balance sheets. It never makes large acquisitions and won't, period. It is accumulating cash at an alarming rate too.

    What apple is doing is displaying that they are disinterested in shareholders. Shareholders are owners of the company. Not just people holding a piece of paper. As an owner I would like to see a large dividend paid. I'd even agree with Apple taking on 50 billion in debt at 1% (even less after tax deduction) to pay a dividend or buyback stock at these levels.

    Instead they have 128 billion earning next to zero. In one year it will be 170 billion. Say 3% to 4% inflation minus the .5% they are earning and you have an annual loss on the cash's buying power of 2.5% to 3.5%. Call it 3% and they are losing 3.5B a year to inflation right now. By next year this time it will be at a run rate of 5 billion lost to inflation. Is this a good use of capital?

    Apple should keep enough on hand to run the business, fund the micro acquisitions they tend to do and enough for a rainy day downturn. I'd call that between 50B and 75B tops and that is generous. The 170B they will have 12 months from now is ludicrous. It is so bad you could even see shareholder lawsuits claiming apple lacks fiduciary responsibility to shareholders

  • Report this Comment On December 04, 2012, at 6:43 PM, dwilh51183 wrote:

    How can you say AAPL doesn't care about shareholders? AAPL has made more millionaires these past 5 years and they can do better things with their money. Like research and development ,making new products, buying back their own stock ,then force it much higher ; paying out a huge cash dividend just deletes all your money and then people come in and buy the stock, collect the cash, and then dump it after like two weeks just to get the dividend. Then the stock goes right back down. i'd rather have cash growing and the stock going much higher plus the company increases the dividend every quarter to me that's much better

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