Apple buybacks eclipse value of most S&P 500 companies

(Reuters) - Apple Inc said on Tuesday it handed its shareholders $20 billion through share buybacks in the June quarter, bringing its tally this year to a record $43 billion and helping push its stock price to an all-time high.

A visitor uses his iPhone X to take photos of the stage at the Apple Worldwide Developer conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California, U.S., June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

With a mountain of overseas cash freed up by last year’s sweeping U.S. corporate tax cuts, Apple’s share repurchases in the first half of calendar 2018 exceed the stock market value of almost three quarters of the companies in the S&P 500, including Ford Motor Co, Delta Air Lines Inc and Twitter Inc.

Apple’s share repurchases in the June quarter were only eclipsed in the history of the S&P 500 by Apple repurchasing $22.8 billion of its shares in the prior quarter, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices analyst Howard Silverblatt.

The recent pace of Apple’s buybacks, disclosed in a quarterly report that beat Wall Street’s expectations, could help support the iPhone maker’s stock as investors worry that some high-flying technology companies have become too expensive.

Confidence top-shelf technology and consumer stocks has been shaken in recent days following poor results from Facebook Inc and Netflix Inc .

Apple said in May it was adding $100 billion to its budget for buybacks. Its stock is up 16 percent in 2018, compared with the S&P 500’s 5 percent rise.

“I see the buybacks as a major determinant of near-term price appreciation,” said D.A. Davidson & Co analyst Thomas Forte.

Apple reported strong quarterly revenue and profits in its report after the bell, driven by sales of higher-priced iPhones and from services like the App Store.

Its stock rose 3.7 percent in extended trade to $197.34, a record high, putting its market capitalization at $954 billion, based on Apple’s share count at the end of the quarter. Apple is tickling at becoming the first publicly listed U.S. company valued at $1 trillion.

However, Apple’s quarterly filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission, expected on Wednesday, might reveal that it further reduced its share count since the end of the quarter, which would mean its market capitalization is lower.

Apple also paid $3.7 billion in dividends during the quarter, bringing its total in the first half of calendar 2018 to $6.9 billion, the company said.

The decision to turn over record amounts of cash to shareholders was a direct result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by Republican lawmakers in December.

Reporting by Noel Randewich in San Francisco and Sonam Rai in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker