By Xavier Brenner
Does Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) have an unhealthy relationship with cash? Hedge fund billionaire investor David Einhorn likens Apple to a Depression-era granny fixated on hoarding cash at the expense of shareholders. Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital owns about 0.12 percent of Apple, and he has a plan to spend some of the company’s $137 billion-plus in cash and short-term securities. That’s more than the GDP of Vietnam, as TechCrunch notes.
Einhorn wants Apple to issue $50 billion worth of preferred shares that would deliver a 5% dividend. Apple doesn’t seem much interested in that approach and Einhorn has sued the company.
Last summer, Fortune’s Philip Elmer-Dewitt had a fascinating post on Apple’s monster cash accumulation. He cited Bullish Cross‘ Andy Zaky, who had crunched the numbers as came up with his estimates for Apple’s projected growth in cash and marketable securities through the end of fiscal 2013. Zaky forecast $205 billion in cash by September 2013. If so, that would be more than the combined market caps of Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC), Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ), Dell Inc. (NASDAQ:DELL).
Steve Jobs always ignored calls of reestablishing Apple’s quarterly dividend that the company suspended back in the mid-90s when the company was in deep trouble. He and other other executives have said in the past the cash stockpile gives them the kind of strategic flexibility they need to survive in a fast-changing business like PCs, smartphones and music players.
Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted recently that the company has too much cash that it can put to productive use and that Apple’s board will announce plans soon to share some of the wealth with shareholders. If so, the timing would be fortuitous, given the stock’s slide in recent weeks.
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