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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

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Jeff Macke and Jon Najarian spending Apple's money on Yahoo! News

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:

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.

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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

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