Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s New CFO Expected To Favor Buybacks: Barclays

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Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s incoming CFO Luca Maestri, who will replace Peter Oppenheimer, soon may find a place in the good books of activist investor Carl Icahn, as according to Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes, the new CFO is expected to favor buybacks. Analysts believe that Maestri could possibly increase the share buybacks given Apple’s massive $158.8 billion (78% offshore) cash reserve.

Reites says, “We know Maestri quite well and believe he will support consistent plans for capital return and thoughtful, achievable guidance.”

Apple careful in succession planning

Analyst Reitzes notes that the announcement was not much of a surprise, considering Mr. Maestri, who presently serves as Apple’s controller, “was on the earnings call last quarter and long-time Apple followers should have gotten the hint.” Analyst believes that Apple has been very careful in succession planning, which is evident from the company’s strategy of hiring Maestri away from Xerox last year.

Maestri joined Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) from Xerox Corp in 2013. Prior to Xerox, Maestri was the CFO of network equipment maker Nokia Siemens Networks. He also worked for 20 years at General Motors.

Barclay’s analyst has reiterated Equalweight rating on Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) with a price target of $570. Analyst expects the shares to trade range bound between the high $400s and high $500s.

Challenging times

Maestri would take up the new role at an interesting time, when Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is preparing to launch more services to convince investors “it has more consistent revenue streams in a commoditizing smart phone market.”

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) previously disclosed plans to return $100 billion to shareholders by 2015 through dividends and share repurchases. Last month, Apple disclosed that it acquired more than $40 billion worth of its shares over the past 12 months.

Oppenheimer, who joined Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) in 1996, had been the CFO for Apple since 2004, and was the main hand behind the $100 billion capital return program announced a year ago, after consistent demand from investors to utilize the ballooning cash hoard. Oppenheimer, 51, has been named to the board of Goldman Sachs Group. In a statement on Tuesday, the CFO said to utilize some of his free time to complete his pilot’s license.

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