CUPERTINO – Apple’s annual shareholder meeting took place Tuesday morning at Apple Park, and it was by and large a love fest for management of the world’s most valuable company. The biggest news from the event was an indication Apple would not give shareholders a special dividend. CEO Tim Cook also described what he sees as Apple’s unique opportunity in health care.
And sadly, I’ve got some bad news for folks interested in Apple’s amazing “destination architecture” headquarters, Apple Park: there will be no Apple Park tours for you.
Dividends came up during the informal part of the shareholder meeting, when Tim Cook was asked about it in relation to the money the company just repatriated. There were a couple of questions about that money, which came as a result of the Trump tax bill signed into law at the end of December, but each question were quite different.
One shareholder asked if Apple would do a special dividend or double the current dividend. Mr. Cook didn’t commit to a particular course of action, and instead said that Apple would announce its next dividend plan in April, when it always does.
But, Mr. Cook did say, “Special dividends, I’m really not a fan of.” He went on to say he didn’t think special dividends were good for companies or shareholders alike, though he didn’t go into why.
Tim Cook Stood Up
An earlier question went in a much different direction. Mr. Cook was asked why Apple—the world’s most profitable company—supported the Trump tax plan. It was a very political question positioned as why a rich company like Apple was supporting “corporate welfare” and a massively regressive tax system like what’s in this law.
Mr. Cook got quite animated (for Tim Cook), standing up and pacing during his response. He first made the case that the Trump tax plan had two elements, the first being personal tax cuts, and the second being corporate tax cuts and an overhaul of the corporate tax system.
Apple, according to Mr. Cook, did not get involved in the debate over personal taxes because, he said, it was political. Mr. Cook supports many progressive causes, including equality and green energy, and a big part of this answer to me was intended to say, “Look, what I may feel about tax cuts for the rich is immaterial to Apple’s operations. What is material is the corporate tax system.”
He went on to say he felt Apple had a lot to contribute to that conversation, and he described the old system as one that kept money out of the U.S. and effectively incentivized U.S. multinationals to invest overseas profits overseas. He said that more and more U.S. companies will see more of their income from other countries, and that the Trump tax plan better incentivized investing that money in the U.S.
He further added that Apple was planning to do just that, and that Apple—the world’s biggest taxpayer—was going to pay US$38 billion more in taxes as a result of the new tax law. He went so far as to say claims that Apple was paying less in taxes was “rhetoric,” and that it was untrue.
“We would not have supported something if we thought it was bad for America,” he said.
One more note: Mr. Cook joked that Apple had also proposed that there be zero corporate deductions. “That [proposal] wasn’t accepted,” he said to audience laughter. The Trump tax plan is rife with corporate deductions, loop holes, and structures designed to minimize corporate taxes.
Next: Health Care, Apple Park Tours, and Other Notes from the Apple Shareholder Meeting