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Apple May Announce ‘Significant’ Dividend, Gamco’s Ward Says

Apple Inc., the iPhone and iPad maker that has $81.6 billion in cash and investments, will probably issue a “significant” dividend next year, according to Howard Ward of Gamco Investors Inc.

While the company has increased net income every year since at least 2002, Cupertino, California-based Apple hasn’t paid out cash to shareholders. The stock has jumped 53-fold since the end of 2002 after former Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs transformed the Mac maker into a producer of mobile phones and tablet computers. Jobs, who died in October, was replaced as CEO in August by Tim Cook.

“We’re going to see a dividend announced for Apple at some point in the first half of 2012,” Ward, a money manager who helps oversee about $36.1 billion for Gamco Investors Inc., said in an interview today with “Street Smart” on Bloomberg Television. “That could easily be a 3 percent dividend-yielding stock or even higher.”

Steve Dowling, an Apple spokesman, declined to comment.

“I’m not religious about holding cash or not holding it,” Cook said during an Oct. 18 conference call with analysts. “The cash that we do spend, we’re doing an extremely good job of it and we’re very frugal about using it and using it in the right places.”

Apple surpassed Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft Corp. as the world’s biggest technology company by market value in 2010. Microsoft paid its first dividend in 2003 and now has a yield of 3.13 percent, compared with 2.20 percent for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Apple has rallied 18 percent in 2011. That contrasts with the rest of the S&P 500, where the worst stocks this year were the savers and the best gave the money back to investors with dividends and buybacks, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Companies that hoarded cash such as CareFusion Corp., Western Digital Corp. and 18 other members of the S&P 500 lost an average 15 percent in 2011, the data show. The 40 that repurchased the most stock or offered the biggest dividends climbed 5.7 percent, led by DirecTV and Reynolds American Inc.

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