Finally, An Apple Dividend

For the first time ever, being an Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) investor pays dividends. Real dividends.

The tech giant just announced that it will finally unload some of its immense cash stockpile in the form of a dividend. Apple expects to initiate a quarterly of dividend of $2.65 a share during its fiscal fourth quarter, which begins in July. That amounts to a rather modest 1.81% yield for a company that has a current market capitalization of $553 billion, making it the largest publicly traded U.S. company by a mile.

Exxon (NYSE: XOM) is the next-largest U.S. stock, with a market cap of $408 billion. It pays a quarterly dividend of $0.47, for a yield of 2.2%.

In terms of yield, Apple’s dividend also trails those of fellow blue-chip tech stocks Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Intel (Nasdaq: INTC). Intel’s dividend yield is 3%; Microsoft’s is 2.5%.

Many analysts saw an Apple dividend coming. In fact, most feel it’s long overdue.

The company has been on a tear of late, raking in a record $13.1 billion in net income last quarter – more than double the $6 billion the company made in the same quarter a year ago, and the second-most profitable quarter by any company ever.

The company sold 37 million iPhones and 15 million iPads from October through December, both more than twice the units sold during the same period in 2010. Sales should only get better next quarter: This month alone the company has already introduced a new iPad and a new Apple TV, which allows viewers to download movies and TV shows through iTunes and watch them in high-definition on their television.

Through the end of 2011, Apple was sitting on $97.6 billion in cash – more than the market caps of all but 52 publicly traded companies.

Apple's stock is up a little over 1% since announcing its new dividend this morning. It is currently trading at $592 a share. For the year, Apple’s stock has risen an amazing 45%.

In addition to the dividend, starting next year Apple plans to buy back $10 billion of its own stock.

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