* Steve Jobs returns to work after near 6-month leave
* At Apple a few days a week, working from home otherwise
* Apple shares flat on Nasdaq (Adds analyst comments; updates shares)
SAN FRANCISCO, June 29 (Reuters) - Apple Inc AAPL.O Chief Executive Steve Jobs is back at work following a near 6-month medical leave, although he will work at least initially from home for a few days a week, the company said on Monday.
The official word of his return followed months of speculation about the health of Jobs, a pancreatic cancer survivor and his future with the company he co-founded more than 30 years ago.
Jobs, 54, underwent a liver transplant in Memphis, Tennessee, while on leave. He has remained involved in strategic decisions at Apple while away, according to the company and he has been seen in recent weeks at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California.
“Steve is back to work,” a company spokesman said. “He’s currently at Apple a few days a week and working from home the remaining days. We are very glad to have him back.”
Collins Stewart analyst Ashok Kumar said investors will be reassured that Jobs is back at the helm of the company he helped resuscitate over the past decade, with category-defining products such as the iPod and, more recently, the iPhone.
Kumar noted that some investors had feared Jobs would never return. “In many ways he’s irreplaceable,” he said. “Having him back brings the halo back to the company.”
Apple shares were flat in late trading on the Nasdaq. The stock used to sink and surge with every twist in Jobs’ health, but has proved to be less volatile of late as investors got used to the idea of other executives running the company in his absence.
STOCK LESS VOLATILE
Oppenheimer & Co analyst Yair Reiner said that, given the lack of information about Apple’s CEO over the past six months, investors were forced to remove him from the equation.
“It really wasn’t possible for someone to make an investment decision in Apple under the assumption that Steve Jobs was going to come back,” Reiner said.
Jobs was treated for a rare form of pancreatic cancer in 2004. His gaunt appearance at an Apple event last summer spurred worries the cancer had returned.
In January, after initially blaming his noticeable weight loss on a hormone imbalance, Jobs announced he was taking medical leave until the end of June, saying his health-related issues were “more complex” than originally thought.
While Jobs was on leave, Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook handled Apple’s day-to-day operations. Some analysts think Jobs may transition into an advisory role, focusing on products and strategy and Cook would formally become CEO.
The hospital in Memphis that performed Jobs’ liver transplant said he “is now recovering well and has an excellent prognosis,” but has not provided further details. [ID:nN2382309]
Pacific Crest Securities analyst Andy Hargreaves said questions remain and added that Apple has not shown itself very forthcoming on the subject of Jobs’ health.
“The question is whether or not he’s going to be there for the next several years and I don’t think they’ve added any clarity on that,” he added. (Reporting by Gabriel Madway, editing by Richard Chang and Andre Grenon)
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