By Stephen Nellis
(Reuters) – Apple Inc Chief Executive Tim Cook downplayed a suggestion that the company might issue a special dividend to shareholders with some of the $285 billion in cash that the company is now able to bring back from overseas.
At an annual shareholder meeting at Apple Park in Cupertino on Tuesday, Cook responded to a question on whether the company might double its dividend in the wake of changes to United States tax laws that allowed corporations to bring back overseas cash at lower tax rates than before.
“Special dividends, I’m not really a fan of,” Cook responded. “But in terms of annual increases in the dividend, it is something that this board and management are committed to doing.”
Cook said the company would provide an update on its capital return program during its April earnings call with investors, as it has done for the past several years.
At the meeting, shareholders defeated two shareholder proposals, one asking that rules allowing shareholders to nominate directors to the board be eased, and another asking for a human rights committee at Apple.
The proxy access measure asked Apple to reconsider its rules for shareholders to nominate directors; the rules say that a group of no more than 20 shareholders must hold 3 percent of Apple’s stock in order to nominate a director for one of the eight director positions. The proposal did not pass, with 67.8 percent of shareholders voting against it.
Another proposal urged Apple to create a human rights panel to oversee issues such as workplace conditions and censorship in China and to report results back to the public. The proposal was defeated, with 94.4 percent of shareholders voting against it.
Apple had recommended that shareholders vote against both of the measures.
Shareholders approved four measures put forth by the company, including a required “say on pay” vote to approve pay for executives and a measure on re-electing the current directors.
Shares of Apple were up 0.1 percent at $162.84.
(Reporting by Stephen Nellis; Editing by Bernadette Baum)