Apple’s Shareholder Meeting Likely a Snoozer

Published on February 27, 2013
by John Paczkowski


Apple HQ photo by Joe Ravi

Given the week of spectacle that preceded it, Apple’s annual shareholders meeting today is likely to be something of a letdown.

Now that David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital has successfully blocked a shareholder vote on a proposal that would have eliminated Apple’s ability to issue blank-check preferred stock without investor approval, there’s little in the way of interesting business to be conducted. Certainly nothing more contentious than votes on executive compensation, the election of directors and a pair of vanilla proposals, one that calls for Apple to create a board committee on human rights that would evaluate its supply chain, and another that argues that the company’s top executives should be required to retain at least 33 percent of their shares until they reach retirement.

So expect today’s meeting to be a largely dull affair — at least until the question-and-answer session that concludes it. There we might see a bit of action. With Apple’s share price down about 37 percent from the all-time high it hit five months ago, and some 14 percent since last year’s shareholder meeting, attendees may be more keen on pressing Apple to explain just what it plans to do to return to growth. Not that the company’s leadership will answer.

And then there’s that $137 billion in cash Apple is sitting on. The company has yet to clearly articulate its plans for that. Folks like Einhorn think Apple would be wise to release some of it to shareholders. Specifically, the longtime Apple bull wants the company to issue high-yielding perpetual preferred shares to existing shareholders.

It remains to be seen if Einhorn will attend today’s meeting to question Apple about his idea, but if he doesn’t, there’s a good chance someone else will. Again, not that the company will answer — or answer in a way that’s any different from what Tim Cook said during his recent appearance at a Goldman Sachs conference in San Francisco. “I think it’s creative, and we are going to thoroughly evaluate their current proposal,” Cook said. “We welcome all ideas from all of our shareholders, including Greenlight, and we’re going to thoroughly consider it.” Expect some variation on those remarks if the issue of Einhorn and his iPrefs proposal is raised.

So, barring any wild-card announcements from Apple (unlikely), today’s meeting will probably be a staid event — perhaps with a bit of flash and distraction if Einhorn shows up (also unlikely, I’m told).

Apple’s shareholder meeting kicks off at 9 am PT today at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.

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