Apple Inc said it would host a conference call on Monday morning to discuss the outcome of discussions about its cash balance as investors clamor for a return from its massive holdings.
Apple has $98 billion in cash and securities, sparking calls by investors to put the huge hoard to work. ISI Group analyst Brian Marshall said the cash balance equates to $104 a share.
Wall Street has increasingly bet that Apple will this year return cash to shareholders, taking their cue from Chief Executive Tim Cook's comments about active discussions at the top levels about the matter.
Cook recently said he had been thinking very deeply about investors' demands that the iPad and iPod maker return some of the cash to shareholders via a dividend.
Frankly speaking, it's more than we need to run the company, Cook said at the annual shareholders meeting in February.
Analysts have said the return of cash to shareholders could take the form of a one-time dividend or share buyback to address a longstanding desire on the part of investors, while potentially opening the stock to a new class of investors who seek a dividend yield.
A dividend makes sense, said Shaw Wu, analyst with Sterne Agee. The decision is probably going to be pretty binary. It's going to be either yes or no. Many are hoping the answer is going to be yes.
It's more likely they are considering it. I am not sure they are going to necessarily say it's to be effective immediately, Wu said.
On the alternative of a buyback, Wu said it would be possible, but the value to shareholders would be more questionable.
The issue with (a) buyback is that the payback for investors is not as tangible. With a dividend, you get a check in the mail, Wu said.
Wu discounted the possibility of a stock split, saying it makes it more difficult to beat earnings consensus numbers.
Mounting anticipation over a buyback, along with hopes the newest iPad will keep sales momentum strong, helped propel Apple's stock to a record high this month past $600 a share and has made Apple the most valuable U.S. company by market capitalization. The stock on Friday closed at $585.57.
ISI's Marshall said a dividend would drive additional stock purchases from top 20 dividend mutual funds and other investors as they make Apple a top holding.
Marshall said a dividend could be as high as $14.65 per share annually.
The Apple call, to be held at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT) on Monday, will not provide an update on the current quarter nor will it touch upon any topics other than cash, the company said in a statement on Sunday.
Apple declined to comment further on the press advisory.
(Reporting by Poornima Gupta in San Francisc and Jessica Hall in Philadelphia; Editing by Dale Hudson and Leslie Adler)