Shares of Apple Inc. fell modestly Tuesday following the company’s disclosure that Steve Jobs, the CEO who transformed the niche computer maker into the most-envied consumer-electronics brand today, is taking another medical leave of absence.
Analysts believe the company Mr. Jobs shepherded from garage startup to a $65 billion technology trendsetter is in good hands with the current slate of talented executives — even as Apple, now the Silicon Valley player to beat, faces increasing competition from Google Inc. and others.
Investors appeared to agree. Although shares fell nearly 7 percent in Frankfurt Monday, when markets in the U.S. were closed, Apple lost only $7.17, or 2 percent, to $341.31 in midday trading Tuesday. Earlier Tuesday, stock traded as low as $326.
In the last decade, Mr. Jobs, 55, has survived a rare but curable form of pancreatic cancer and undergone a liver transplant. The news that he will again step back from his day-to-day role raises serious questions about the CEO’s health.
Investors have pinned much of their faith in the company on Mr. Jobs himself, sending shares tumbling on every bit of news or rumor of his ailing health. That’s because Mr. Jobs is an industry oracle of sorts, inventing new products he knows consumers will want even before they realize it. He is also known as a demanding and hands-on leader who is involved in even the smallest details of product development.
For now, very little is known about Mr. Jobs‘ current condition. Apple did not provide any information beyond the six-sentence note announcing his leave, leaving unanswered questions about whether the CEO is acutely ill, whether the leave is related to his 2009 liver transplant or whether he is at home or in a hospital.
In 2010, investors seemingly grew accustomed to Mr. Jobs‘ extreme thinness, focusing instead on the early success of the iPad with consumers. Shares increased 53 percent last year to top $300. With Apple no doubt polishing the second version of the iPad and competition among tablet makers expected to heat up this year and next, some stockholders may fear that without Mr. Jobs, Apple could lose its lead to tablets running Google’s Android software or Microsoft Corp.’s Windows.
Analysts believe Apple has plans for several years’ worth of products in the pipeline. And Mr. Cook, who is seen as a logical eventual successor to Mr. Jobs, is no stranger to investors. He ran the Cupertino, Calif.-based company for two months in 2004 while Mr. Jobs battled pancreatic cancer, and again in 2009 during Mr. Jobs‘ most recent medical leave. Apple chugged along smoothly then, releasing a new version of the iPhone and updated laptops on schedule.
But, Mr. Bajarin said, Mr. Cook “understands the way Steve thinks, how Steve manages. He understands Steve’s vision and probably more important than anything else, he understands Apple. And I don’t see any changes in direction or vision or execution even though Steve’s not day-to-day.”View Entire Story
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