News Column

Apple CEO Tim Cook Calls Suit 'Sideshow'

Feb 13, 2013

By Scott Martin

Tim Cook

Apple CEO Tim Cook on Tuesday dismissed recent shareholder activism as a "sideshow" to the company's focus on products that wow consumers and have turned the PC industry upside-down.

David Einhorn, the billionaire manager of Greenlight Capital, sued Apple last week in a bid to pressure the company about the distribution of dividends.

"It's a silly sideshow," Cook told investors at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Interent conference at the Palace Hotel.

Apple's chief answered questions about the company's growth and innovation as well as about the calls for increased dividends. "I think it's creative, and we are going to thoroughly evaluate their current proposal," Cook added of Greenlight's stock prosposal.

Shares of Apple closed Tuesday at $467.90, down $12.03 or 2.5%.

Cook pointed out that Apple has begun to return $45 billion to investors through dividends and buybacks.

Apple's shareholder meeting is scheduled for Feb. 27.

Einhorn is calling on shareholders to vote down a proposal on Apple's proxy that would make it more difficult for the company to issue preferred stock, a class that typically carries a higher dividend.

Einhorn has criticized Apple for holding onto its $137 billion in cash.

Cook said the company's product magic is still deeply at work, despite increasing questions about Apple's next big thing and its growth.

Apple's chief was the main attraction at the event, which came after more than 30% has been shaved from the company's stock price of about $700 in September.

"I've never been more bullish on innovation of Apple," Cook said.

Cook said what sets Apple apart from its PC counterparts is expertise in software, hardware and services.

"Apple has the ability on all three of these spheres to innovate like crazy and cause magic," he said. "People are trying desperately to catch up, and they are finding it's not so easy to do."

Rival Google last year bought Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in what many expected was a play for patents and in-house hardware expertise to better go up against iPhones and iPads.

Microsoft last year unveiled its Surface tablets in a first home-brewed hardware-and-software move into tablets and a new direction.

Apple sells more iPads alone than Hewlett-Packard's entire PC lineup, Cook said.

"The iPad is the poster child of the post-PC revolution."

Cook also took jabs at smartphone rival Samsung's OLED screen technnology. "The color saturation is awful."

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013

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