Several options grants to top executives at Apple Computer Inc. were dated just before sharp increases in its stock between 1997 and 2001, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing a review of regulatory filings.

In one instance in early 2001, Apple granted a total of 8 million, split-adjusted options to four of its top officers at the time, not including Chief Executive Steve Jobs, the report said.

The exercise price of the options was equal to the closing price of Apple's stock on January 17, 2001. After the market close on that day, Apple released quarterly earnings that cheered some analysts because the company had sharply cut inventories of computers on retailers' shelves, the paper reported.

Apple's shares rose 11 percent the next day, giving the executives an instant paper profit of $7.5 million, the article said.

A spokesman for Apple was not immediately available to comment on the article.

Shares of Apple sank last week after the company said it expected to restate its previous results after finding more irregularities in its stock options accounting.

It first disclosed the irregularities on June 29, saying it was conducting an internal investigation.

Apple, maker of the iPod music player, is one of the most high-profile companies caught up in a scandal over the manipulation of the timing of stock option grants.