NEW YORK – With its annual meeting looming and its stock on the decline, Apple is facing a rebellion from an influential investor who wants the company to stop stockpiling cash and give it to shareholders instead.
Greenlight Capital said Thursday that it is suing Apple in a New York federal court over the company’s proposal to make it more difficult for it to issue preferred stock. David Einhorn, who heads the investment fund, said the proposal would close down one avenue for Apple to reward shareholders with more cash.
Preferred stock is designed primarily as a way for companies to deliver a fixed income to shareholders. It differs from common stock, which generally doesn’t promise a regular flow of income but rather is a wager on a company’s long-term growth.
Apple is still the world’s most valuable company, but its stock has lost 35 percent of its value since September, as it’s become obvious that its once-rapid growth has slowed down. The company is fabulously profitable, and Wall Street wants the company to share more of that money with its shareholders rather than tucking it away in low-yielding bank accounts.
In a statement Thursday, Apple said its management and board continue “active discussions” about what to do with the money, and it will take Einhorn’s proposal into consideration.
Its $137 billion in cash makes up nearly a third of Apple’s stock market value. Shares of the Cupertino, Calif., company traded at $456.95 in the late afternoon, up $2.25, or 0.5 percent, from Wednesday’s close.
Corporations normally don’t hoard cash the way Apple does. They keep enough on hand for immediate needs, and either invest the rest in their operations or hand it out to shareholders in the form of dividends or stock buybacks. If they need more cash for, say, an acquisition, they borrow it.
Greenlight, a shareholder since 2010 with 1.3 million Apple shares worth nearly $600 million, wants Apple to create a class of preferred stock that carries a higher dividend, and give it away to current shareholders. That way, he believes the company would appeal to value investors and those who are risk-averse.