Apple pays out £28bn to investors
Apple announced its first dividend since 1995 as the iPad giant shares some of its $100bn (£63.1bn) cash pile with investors.
The phenomenal success of the iPad, iPhone and iPod has helped make Apple the world's most valuable company and it is now set to return some of its riches to shareholders.
Last week the company gave another demonstration of its cult-like following when fans queued overnight outside the Apple store in London's Regent Street for the launch of the iPad 3, which has a higher resolution screen and a five-megapixel camera.
Despite competition from cheaper rivals, the iPad remains the most popular tablet computer, with more than 55m of the devices sold since its launch in 2010, including 40m last year.
The California-based company will pay a dividend and buy back $10bn (£6.3bn) of shares as part of the return of some $45bn (£28.4bn) to shareholders and employees in the first three years of the programme. But it said that would still leave it a "war chest" to expand and make acquisitions.
The company, which is believed to have some $98bn (£61.8bn) in cash and securities, was rescued from near-bankruptcy by co-founder Steve Jobs in 1997 but he was thought to be unwilling to pay a dividend. New chief executive Tim Cook has opted for a change of policy as he stamps his authority on the company.
Mr Cook said: "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.
"Even with these investments, we can maintain a war chest for strategic opportunities and have plenty of cash to run our business," he added.