Apple: It’s Shareholder Windfall Day!

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) shareholders worriedly monitoring the company’s stock price over the last few days of unease have something better to look forward to on Thursday. Apple will pay shareholders just its second dividend in 17 years, giving out about $2.5 billion in $2.65 per share for its 935 million outstanding shares, according to Apple Insider. The first dividend payment was made on August 16.

Not having paid a regular cash dividend since 1995, the company first announced this program in March with the idea of spending $45 billion over a period of three years. A dividend equivalent will also be paid to holders of restricted shares and the board also authorized a $10 billion share repurchase program beginning this year on September 30.

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Apple’s most recent earnings report in October showed that it had a total of $121.4 billion in cash reserves and it plans to keep paying new quarterly dividends about a month and a half after the end of each subsequent quarter. “We can maintain a war chest for strategic opportunities and have plenty of cash to run our business,” chief executive Tim Cook said while announcing the plan earlier this year. “So we are going to initiate a dividend and share repurchase program.”

While the company’s dividend payment rate could be considered modest in the face of its cash position — Bernstein analyst A. M. Sacconaghi Jr called it a “pretty vanilla return of cash program.” — the $2.5 billion worth of quarterly payments makes Apple one of the highest dividend payers in the U.S.

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