Deutsche Bank: Apple special dividend 'welcome but unlikely'December 3, 2012: 6:48 AM ET
With Bush tax cuts set to expire, there's a lot of talk about Apple spreading its wealth
FORTUNE -- If you do a Google search for "Apple special dividend" today you might think Apple (AAPL) shareholders are about to win the lottery. Sample headlines:
- Insider Monkey: Will Apple Inc. pay a special dividend?
- Seeking Alpha: Should Apple issue a special dividend?
- Market Watch: Hedge manager sees Microsoft, Apple special dividends
- Seeking Alpha: The case for Apple's special dividend
- Yahoo! Finance: Why Apple investors are owed $30 a share by Christmas
Not so fast, says Deutsche Bank's Chris Whitmore. In a note to clients Monday he outlines the arguments in favor of a one-time cash outlay to shareholders before shooting them down.
Yes Apple has plenty of cash on hand ($121 billion now projected to grow to $210 billion by 2014). Yes the tax rate on dividends will likely rise from 15% to about 40% in January if the Bush tax cuts expire. Yes Apple has shown a new willingness under Tim Cook to return cash to shareholders. Yes Apple is getting a relatively low rate of return on its cash and marketable securities.
"However," he concludes, "despite the wishes of many investors, the probability of a special Apple dividend appears low as we believe the company is more focused on building a track record of predictable dividend growth (vs. one time lump payment) and share buybacks. Although a special dividend would be a big short-term positive development, it appears unlikely at this point in time as special dividends do not tend to have a lasting benefit to shareholders. Irrespective of its near term dividend policy, we think AAPL remains attractively valued."
Whitmore is reiterating his buy rating with an $800 per share price target.