To be an Apple shareholder these days is to live in interesting times. For the Chinese, such times are to be avoided or at least so goes the ancient proverb. Apple has recently relied on two very interesting strategies to persevere through the Steve Jobs post-partition. The first exists in endless supply, but is rather underused. The second is more finite and Apple has done an impressive job in stockpiling it. Had enough with the Zen riddles?
Tim Cook, Apple’s new CEO, has been on an apology tour of late. The maps fiasco now has the status of an internet meme. More interesting is Apple’s apology to Chinese consumers over iPhone warranty problems. The issue wasn’t exactly manufactured, but the media pressure on Apple was certainly given a not too gentle state-sponsored push.
So Apple went ahead and apologized. It was a real apology, not a non-apology apology that we’re so used to with qualifiers smothering all sense of sincerity. Research has shown that aggrieved parties actually feel better when they resist apologizing. It must be something about standing on principle even at the expense of falling on your sword.
But for Apple, the results have been positive, especially considering China is a market that Apple knows is as lucrative as it is increasingly competitive. So Apple placated a customer problem. Next it pivoted to deal with a shareholder problem. With no new product announcements forthcoming on the scale of or in the imaginative scope that could be called Jobsian, Apple instead decided to wow the crowd with its cash.
The increased dividends and share buyback plan promises to be one of the more ambitious in corporate history. The figure quoted by the Economist is $100 billion by the end of 2015! This only happens to work if you’re sitting on top of a $145 billion pile of cash and liquid assets to begin with.