Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Apple to start buying Apple

October 1, 2012: 6:48 AM ET

The stock repurchase plan announced in March begins this week

Apple: Up nearly 14% since March 19

FORTUNE -- Almost lost in the news last March 19 that Apple (AAPL) was initiating a $2.65-per-share dividend was Part 2 of the two-part announcement: A three-year $10 billion stock repurchase plan commencing in fiscal 2013, which began on Sunday.

The repurchase plan -- designed to offset the shares Apple was giving its employees in lieu of larger salaries -- was neither expected nor particularly sought by Wall Street, as Bernstein's Toni Sacconaghi noted at the time.

No Apple analyst had pushed harder than Sacconaghi for the company to give some of the billions it had accumulated back to the shareholders -- by which he meant the institutions that hold roughly 70% of Apple's shares. He made no secret of the fact that he was disappointed with Apple's plan.

"For a company that prides itself on thinking differently," he wrote to clients that night, "Apple's announcement reflects a pretty vanilla return of cash program."

He was particularly dismissive of the stock repurchase plan.

"Was a buyback really needed?" he asked. "While some investors have expressed a desire for Apple to do a buyback in addition to a dividend, we believe that this view was not widely held, with most investors preferring a larger dividend."

So keen was Sacconaghi on a larger dividend that he wanted Apple -- which at the time held nearly $100 billion in cash and marketable securities, much of it overseas -- to fund it by borrowing $50 billion.

As for the buyback, he expected its impact to be "fairly diminimus" -- boosting EPS at most 1-2% per year.

We checked back with Sacconaghi last week to see if he thought Apple buying Apple would have any impact on the share price.

"This is not new," he said. "Apple announced this in March along with its dividend, so ostensibly this should be fully captured in Apple's share price today."

That seems to be the consensus.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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