Apple Sells 3 Million iPads, Plans Stock Dividend

Apple on Monday announced that it sold 3 million copies of its third-generation iPad tablet since the device's debut the previous Friday, a pace that is faster than previous iPads but much slower than that of the iPhone 4S. Additionally, Apple announced its first stock dividend since the early 1990's.

"The new iPad is a blockbuster with three million sold, the strongest iPad launch yet," Apple marketing VP Philip Schiller said in a prepared statement. "Customers are loving the incredible new features of iPad, including the stunning Retina display, and we can't wait to get it into the hands of even more customers around the world this Friday."

While 3 million units in just three days is impressive, it falls well short of the mark set by Apple's previous product release: The iPhone 4S, released in October, garnered unexpectedly huge sales of over 4 million units in its first three days. And that device requires a two-year wireless contract with an expensive data plan, an additional concern that complicates the purchase. (Apple declined to discuss sales of the iPad 2 over its first long weekend of sales last year.)

Perhaps the price is still too high. The new iPad starts at a whopping $500, about $140 more per unit than it costs Apple to make, according to iSuppli, and the margins are even higher on the more expensive models. The top-of-the-line iPad model still costs an astronomical $830, almost twice the average selling price of a PC laptop.

In an unrelated development, Apple also answered some questions about what it would do with its amazing cash hoard, which sits at almost $100 billion, roughly twice the amount of cash and cash-like assets controlled by Microsoft. Many have called on the company to offer a dividend and perhaps initiate a stock buy-back program to alleviate the impact of stock price dilution caused by its employee stock purchase program.

The company said Monday it would do both. But in keeping with Apple's conservative fiscal moves under previous CEO Steve Jobs, both programs are somewhat underwhelming for shareholders. Apple will pay a dividend of $2.65 per share beginning in the third calendar quarter of 2012. And it will repurchase $10 billion worth of stock over three years, beginning at the same time period. Apple expects to spend $45 billion on these programs over the three years, totally, all of its coming from profits.

Apple last offered a stock dividend in early 1995.

As a percentage of its stock price, $2.65 per share is far below the dividend price offered by other large technology firms, including Microsoft (2.5 percent) and Hewlett-Packard (2 percent). Apple's figure represents just 1.8 percent. And thanks to its three-year plan, one might expect that dividend not to grow at all during that time.

During its volatile history, Apple has often had financial issues. But its current problem, perhaps, is unique in that it literally has too much money, with nothing to spend it on. Apple doesn't make large corporate acquisitions, and likely won't. And even if it funnels a lot of money into research and development, which it never has compared to its contemporaries, it would be hard pressed to make a dent in that $100 billion. In fact, that cash hoard is expected to almost double in three years regardless of what Apple does.


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