Apple Park: What’s an investor to think?

Apple is building a massive new campus.

The tech giant is outgrowing its headquarters in Cupertino, necessitating the construction of a brand new, multi-billion dollar campus. The so-called Apple Park is open as of April but is scheduled to finish construction later this year and will span 175 acres. That’s nearly 130 football fields.

Part of the Apple Park campus is the Apple Ring. It’s one single ring, about a mile in circumference and looks like an alien mothership landed in the forest.

applepark1

Source: Qz.com

What does this mean for investors?

Not a whole lot.

Don’t get us wrong. The entire thing is reminiscent of a super-villain constructing a massive not-so-secret lair. The ring is to be built using six kilometers of curved glass, and the campus will feature 9000 drought-resistant trees in its garden, as well as a 1000 seat theater named after Steve Jobs (slated to have the appearance of a MacBook Air). The entire construction seems to be an exercise in showing off Apple’s wealth and power, especially considering that the campus comes with a five billion dollar price tag.

There’s more than a touch of hubris about the endeavor. There are plenty of cases where companies have built huge showpiece campuses, only for the market to churn and cause companies to scramble.

From an investor’s perspective, it’s hard to argue against Apple’s decision. The campus will bring many of Apple’s employees, currently spread across the valley, together under one roof. It costs a lot of money but relative to Apple’s cash reserves, it doesn’t seem that insane.

Don’t worry, they are nothing like they are this guy……

applepark2

Apple is well-known for having a giant pile of money at their disposal. By all accounts, they have somewhere between 200 and 250 billion dollars at their disposal. Even though the campus will cost $5 billion, it’s not that much relative to the amount of money Apple has saved up. If someone told you they wanted to use just 2-2.5% of the money that had in their savings account to build an incredibly well-designed condo for themselves,you would probably commend them on their sound financial sense.

Apple is just a money-making machine. Their revenues in 2016 were $215 billion, with about $50 billion in profits. The first quarter of 2017 also brought in another $53 billion in revenue. An investor worried that spending on a new campus counts as excessive spending doesn’t have an argument. Sure, could Apple have cut corners and saved a few hundred million? Probably, but the campus is just as much an exercise in branding as it is a place to work. It’s important that Apple, the champion of design, have a beautiful workplace.

What about dividends?

An Apple shareholder could say that the $5 billion dollars spent on the Apple campus would be better spent if it were used to increase the amount paid back to investors. Returning money to shareholders is a fan favorite and investors always want more money.

Unfortunately, Apple is already doing a great job of giving money back. They recently announced 10.5% increase in their dividend payout amount – bringing it up to $13.2 billion annually. That increase puts Apple’s dividend at the top of the pile, surpassing second-place Exxon Mobil at $12.77 billion.

The increase marks Apple’s fifth consecutive dividend hike, one a year since Apple’s first payout in 2012.Exxon does have a higher dividend yield (i.e. they are more generous), but it is hard to argue that Apple isn’t already doing a lot for shareholders; they plan to return $300 billion, up from $250 billion, to investors by 2019.

Investors: you’re doing just fine. Let them have their park.

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