03/19/2012 01:28 EDT | Updated 05/19/2012 05:12 EDT

Apple spends some of its $98B cash hoard

Apple Inc. is finally putting its cash hoard to work, introducing a quarterly dividend of $2.65 US a share and starting a $10 billion share buyback program.

Apple says the dividend will start in its fiscal fourth quarter, which begins July 1. The buybacks will begin in its next fiscal year, which starts Sept. 30.

Apple has been sitting on $97.6 billion in cash and securities and has resisted calls to reward shareholders with some of that money. Since the death of CEO Steve Jobs, however, management has signalled it's been considering options for the money.

“Combining dividends, share repurchases and cash used to net-share-settle vesting RSUs, we anticipate utilizing approximately $45 billion of domestic cash in the first three years of our programs,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO.

“We are extremely confident in our future and see tremendous opportunities ahead.”

Even after the stock buyback, the company will be sitting on a huge amount of cash, enabling it to continue investing in new technologies and acquisitions.

As well, Apple has been steadily profitable for years. In the last fiscal quarter ending Dec. 31, Apple reported a net income of $13.1 billion.

It's estimated the dividend program will cost the company about $10 billion a year. Chief executive Tim Cook, who replaced Jobs after the co-founder's death in October, said the dividend will be reviewed periodically.

His brief tenure has seen a spectacular rise in profit and Apple's stock price, removing early skepticism about his ability to stand in for Jobs.

Cook told analysts Monday that making great products will remain Apple's top priority.

"We have used some of our cash to make great investments in our business through increased research and development, acquisitions, new retail store openings, strategic prepayments and capital expenditures in our supply chain, and building out our infrastructure," Cook said.

"You'll see more of all of these in the future. Innovation is the most important objective at Apple, and we will not lose sight of that."

Apple shares, which closed Friday at $585.57, were up $8.40, or 1.4 per cent, to $593.97 in midday Nasdaq trading. The stock has risen more than 35 per cent since Apple's last earnings report as investors anticipated a dividend announcement.