UPDATE 1-Apple ponders cash, caves on board-vote proposal

Thu Feb 23, 2012 2:06pm EST

By Noel Randewich

CUPERTINO, Calif. Feb 23 (Reuters) - Apple Inc on Thursday adopted a measure long desired by investors and corporate governance activists, granting its shareholders a bigger say in the appointment of directors to the board of the world's largest technology company.

Chief Executive Tim Cook also repeated that he has been "thinking very deeply" about investors' demands that the consumer electronics company return some of its $98 billion in cash and securities to shareholders via a dividend.

On Thursday, Apple finally acceded to demands from U.S. pension fund Calpers and other major investors that it require unopposed directors to secure a majority-share vote before getting elected to the board.

That move came after shareholders last year, in a rare show of activism for a group often content with the iPad and iPhone maker's sizzling growth and lofty share price, voted in favor of a similar proposal despite Apple's recommendation they reject it.

Calpers, the largest U.S. pension fund, has long sought support for such a measure to be adopted at scores of other U.S. corporations.

At Thursday's annual shareholders meeting in Cupertino, executives said directors who do not manage to secure a majority vote to voluntarily resign their positions.

Thursday's meeting comes days after Apple touched a lifetime high of $526.29, cementing its ranking as the most valuable U.S. company with over $450 billion in market capitalization.

Some analysts say the stock may even scale new heights next month, when the company is expected to unveil a new version of its best-selling iPad.

Away from Wall Street, Cook continues to grapple with issues such as its ballooning pile of cash and securities, and negative publicity surrounding working conditions at the company's manufacturing partners in China.

Apple has been trying to direct the spotlight on its efforts to urge partners to treat their employees better.

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