Yesterday Apple held its annual shareholder’s meeting at its Cupertino headquarters. All the top brass were there to answer questions from the men and women to whom, let’s face it, they must eventually answer. Of course, that didn’t stop Steve Jobs from being his usual tactless self, quipping during a lengthy comment from one shareholder, “Do you have a question?”
There’s a lot of information to digest, so I’ve condensed the juiciest morsels into what I hope is a more accessible short-form. Here goes!
All seven board members were re-elected; there was an advisory vote on executive compensation and Apple’s public accounting firm was chosen (it’s Ernst & Young, by the way.) Votes also were cast on two shareholder proposals. The first called for a published “sustainability report” detailing the company’s environmental policies and its contingency planning in the face of climate change. The second proposal was for the creation of a second board of directors, tasked with overseeing Apple’s environmental policies and business strategy in the face of climate change. The board felt they were already doing a fine job in both these areas, and recommended voting against the new proposals. Votes were counted and, unsurprisingly, neither proposal was successful.
According to Macworld, Jobs claimed that Apple is the first company to work directly with suppliers on issues ranging from environmental impact to worker protection and education. Macworld’s Dan Frakes writes;
Taking a jab at other companies, as well as organizations such as Greenpeace, [Jobs] noted that “other companies just make promises” and attend conferences and events to “schmooze with [environmental groups], but the work ain’t getting done,” whereas Apple is actually taking steps to improve the company’s real-world green credentials and treatment of workers.
Jobs also noted that the smaller packaging used across Apple’s product line has reduced the number of annual cargo flights “by the hundreds”;
“It’s the right thing to do from an environmental point of view; it’s the right thing to do from a business point of view.”
In its first quarter 2010 investor conference call, Apple announced it had $39.8 billion in the bank at the end of December 2009. The question now is, what on earth should it do with it? Spend it? Save it for the next recession? Perhaps pay dividends to shareholders — something BusinessWeek says the company has not done since 1995? Jobs said;
We know if we need to acquire something – a piece of the puzzle to make something big and bold – we can write a check for it and not borrow a lot of money and put our whole company at risk. The cash in the bank gives us tremendous security and flexibility.
You never know what opportunities are going to be around the next corner. We are a large enough business now that, in order to really move the needle, we have to be thinking pretty bold – pretty large.
On the matter of Apple’s new role as a ‘mobile devices’ company (first announced by Jobs in January and reiterated by Tim Cook in last month’s earnings call) Jobs said;
This is not something that we’re ordaining from the top. This is something our customers are saying with their dollars, if you just look at the products that we’re selling. They’re telling us what they think is important and we’re reflecting that.
But specifically, what does this mean about the future of Apple’s desktop Macs, the iMac and Mac Pro? “We love desktop computers,” El Jobso assured the shareholders, “And plan to continue making them.” So, that’s alright then.
When asked about Apple’s efforts to increase international sales, Jobs turned to (VP of Retail) Ron Johnson, who announced that Apple is looking to open 24 more stores in China to join the existing store in Beijing. This is to be expected, given how important (and lucrative) China is to Apple. DigitalDaily’s John Paczkowski writes, “Mac sales in China increased nearly 100 percent year over year in the first financial quarter of 2010… while iPhone sales [are] ramping up.”
Beyond the Mac, Paczkowski quotes Tim Cook on Apple’s overall revenue in that market;
“…if you look at greater China last quarter, which is China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, our revenues tripled year-over-year… We have a tremendous focus on it.”
I guess it’s only right China should get a little Apple-love… after all, they make most of Apple’s gear in the first place!
Finally, there was a moment of fun, Jobs-style; a shareholder wanted to know of Jobs, “What keeps you up at night?”
“Shareholder meetings,” Jobs immediately shot back, before getting very serious and adding, thoughtfully;
“Apple requires stability in the world. People aren’t going to worry about which laptop to buy if they can’t afford dinner, can’t afford to send their kids to school, can’t afford textbooks. There are things much bigger than us that are out of our control. So we try to just do the best we can.”
Bravo, Steve. And bravo, Apple.