December 17, 2008 / 12:03 AM / 9 years ago

Worries about Steve Jobs' health hit Apple shares

<p>Apple CEO Steve Jobs pulls an iPod nano out of his pocket after introducing it at an event in San Francisco. REUTERS/Lou Dematteis</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Apple Inc’s shares fell almost 4 percent on Wednesday on concerns about the health of its chief executive and whether the company had any new products planned after it said Steve Jobs would not deliver the keynote speech at its upcoming technology show.

Apple shares fell to $91.85 in premarket trading from their Nasdaq close of $95.43. Late Tuesday the company said that a product marketing executive would deliver the opening keynote for its annual Macworld show in January instead of Jobs.

Apple also said the show would be its last Macworld.

Oppenheimer analyst Yair Reiner downgraded the stock to “perform” from “outperform” and said there were “probably purely commercial reasons for Jobs’ decision to skip Macworld in ‘09 and have Apple skip it altogether thereafter.”

But the cancellation “reminds us that we still know nothing about his health or any potential succession plan,” the analyst said in a research note, adding that a Jobs departure “could leave the company in disarray.”

<p>Steve Jobs, Apple Inc.'s Chief Executive Officer, makes a joke about his blood pressure after introducing a new laptop at a news conference in Cupertino, California, October 14, 2008. REUTERS/Kimberly White</p>

Investors worried in June when 53-year-old Jobs, a cancer survivor, appeared thin when he took the stage at a product launch. In September, Jobs, seen by some as irreplaceable as Apple’s leader, looked thin but jaunty at another event.

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“Maybe he’s not feeling well, or maybe he just has nothing new to say,” Reiner said.

Another analyst, Shannon Cross of Cross Research, said it could mean that Apple did not have “significant product announcements” for the show.

But Cross said she thought it would be important for the company to make the executive available to journalists or investors early next year to alleviate any concerns.

“In addition, while we believe the company is doing so unofficially, we think Apple should formally address the succession plan, regardless of Jobs’ future plans,” she said.

Reporting by Sinead Carew, editing by Maureen Bavdek

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