What not to expect at Apple’s shareholders meeting today
Will Tim Cook say anything newsworthy or material? Don’t hold your breath.
FORTUNE — Given the advance buildup — a headline-grabbing billionaire, a high-profile proxy fight, a hedge-fund lawsuit, a federal judge’s preliminary injunction and those cutesy iPrefs — Apple’s (AAPL) annual shareholders meeting today is likely to disappoint.
For one thing, the proposition that created all the fuss — a change in the company’s articles of incorporation that would have prohibited the issuance of preferred shares without a shareholder vote — has been taken off the table.
For another, the real issue behind the fuss is Apple’s $137 billion cash stockpile — if, when and how much of that cash the company plans to divvy up among the shareholders. Those aren’t questions boards of directors usually answer at shareholders meetings.
Last year, more than a month elapsed between CEO Tim Cook’s signal at a Goldman Sachs event that something was in the works (“I think it’s clear to everyone, and I’d be the first to admit, we have more cash than we need to run the business on a daily basis”) and Apple’s announcement that it was initiating a dividend and buyback program. Apple held a shareholders meeting smack in the middle of that month and Cook never said a word about either.
Third, have you ever been to a shareholders meeting? The format is fixed. The votes are rigged (or might as well be). And the Q&A is dominated by sycophants with nothing but praise for the company or activist shareholders with axes to grind and a desperate need for attention. They will suck the oxygen right out of the room.
Finally, this is Tim Cook we’re talking about. Steve Jobs rarely attended shareholders meetings, but when he did, sparks could fly. (When he unveiled the original Mac at a January 1984 meeting, pandemonium ensued.) Sparks rarely come off Jobs’ successor. Cook knows his stuff and chooses his words carefully. It is likely that he will eventually have something to tell us about Apple’s capital management plans, but I’m not expecting to hear it Wednesday.
The meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Pacific (12 noon Eastern) in Building 4 on Apple’s Cupertino campus.
UPDATE: With Apple once again in the red Tuesday afternoon, hedge fund manager Doug Kass tweeted that he was “mucho long” the stock. Seven minutes later he floated a rumor that Apple would announce a spit at today’s meeting. After 30 minutes, with Apple trading nearly than $12 higher, he tweeted that he was selling off his Apple holdings because there was less to the rumor than met the eye. Not sure that’s cricket, but there you have it.
See also: About that Apple stock split rumor