Einhorn's Apple Argument Supported by Hidden Stock Gain (Update1)
In spite of those threats, Apple is poised to post awe-inspiring earnings in coming quarters as iPhone 5 and iPad Mini sales ramp up. As such, hedge funders like Einhorn of Greenlight Capital Management feel the company's single-digit forward earnings multiple represent an obvious value, in a tech sector marked by the sky-high valuations of Amazon(AMZN) , Netflix( NFLX ) and Facebook(FB) .
Those selling shares in the company in recent months appear to be concerned about Apple's future products, given reports of moderate tweaks to its existing set of smartphones and tablets, lower priced smartphones, and a vague push into the streaming-media business.
It is Apple's dividend policy that could be a ballast for investors as the company's existing products mature and the public awaits a new gadget that redefines the consumer electronics market.
Apple's one-year share performance -- or lack thereof -- should signal to Chief Executive Tim Cook that new thinking is still needed when it comes to the company's dividend policy after instituting a shareholder payout in 2012.
On Thursday, Einhorn appealed to Apple investors to vote for a provision in the company's annual proxy that would retain its ability to pay a preferred stock dividend. In May, Einhorn said Apple's cash, which now stands at $137.1 billion, or $145 a share, could be put toward a perpetual preferred stock dividend of between 4% to 6%.
"Over the past several months, we have had an ongoing dialogue with Apple regarding one option to do so, namely the creation of a new security, a perpetual preferred stock that would be distributed at no cost to Apple's existing shareholders, and would provide an attractive, sustainable dividend while preserving Apple's financial resources to pursue its business strategy," Einhorn said in a letter to investors.
On Thursday, Greenlight Capital sued Apple as a result of a proposal tucked in its annual proxy to eliminate preferred shares. Meanwhile, the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) said it supported the proposed elimination of preferred stock in Apple's proxy.
Still, Apple appears to be taking Einhorn's concerns about the company's cash hoard seriously.
In a statement Thursday, Apple said it would "evaluate" Greenlight Capital's proposal to issue preferred stock. The company also said its Board of Directors is considering returning additional cash to shareholders.