Is a Dividend the Answer to Apple’s Problems?

Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock has risen just under 4 percent since the company came up with a “we’re thinking about it” response to calls for an increase in its dividend and stock repurchase funds on Thursday. The prospect of Apple returning some of its $137 billion in cash to shareholders has undoubtedly made the stock — which has been in trouble over the last few months because of growth concerns around the company — an attractive proposition once again.

Stuart Frankel’s Steve Grasso told CNBC on Friday that investors were unlikely to sell the stock before Apple’s annual investor meeting scheduled for February 27.

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“People want to know where it’s going,” he said. “People are excited about it. And you’re not going to sell the stock ahead of that meeting. You’re not going to sell the stock until you find out: Buyback, dividend, what the story is.”

Grasso said that while new product launches, and quicker ones, were important in analyzing where Apple would go next, the current buzz was giving him hope for a big move up for the stock. “I think all the hoopla is, right now, dividends, buybacks, end of story. Technical bounce in the story, I’m still long it,” he said.

But other industry analyzers are choosing to be more reticent, saying that while Apple’s more open stance on capital deployment was positive, it eventually wouldn’t be enough to help the stock in the longer term…

A slight increase in dividend or buyback amount won’t likely be enough to reignite investor interest in the stock, Merrill Lynch’s Scott Craig wrote in a note to investors.

R.W. Baird’s William Power agreed with Craig, reiterating his Neutral rating on the stock along with a $465 price target. Apple closed the week at just under $475. “This could provide a near-term catalyst, but should come as no surprise,” Power wrote. However, the analyst pointed out that near- to medium-term concerns related to Apple’s risks to meeting consensus estimates over the next couple of quarters and the full year still remained.

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“In addition to long running gross margin concerns, we fear that consensus estimates remain too high, particularly for the June quarter and full year, potentially setting the company up for another guidance miss when it reports March-quarter results,” he wrote.

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