Apple's capital return program, originally announced back in March of 2012, has already returned vast amounts of money to shareholders in the form of dividends and stock buybacks
Since its first incarnation, Apple has dramatically increased the scope of its stock buyback program, announcing in April of 2013 that it was expanding from an initial level of $10 billion to $60 billion. One year later, Apple increased its stock buyback program yet again, this time to $90 billion. This was also accompanied by steadying increases to Apple's quarterly dividend. All told, Apple's current capital return program aims to return $130 billion in value to shareholders.
During Apple's most recent earnings report, Apple CFO Luca Maestri noted that the company has thus far taken action on "over $74 billion of our $130 billion capital return program with six quarters remaining to its completion."
So with about a year and a half to go until the $130 billion figure is reached, Horace Dediu of Asymco earlier this week provided us with an up-to-date snapshot as to the state of the program.
Breaking down Apple's $74 billion figure, Dediu notes that Apple thus far has doled out approximately $21.5 billion in dividend payments while spending approximately $53 billion on stock buybacks. That's an insane amount of cash and Dediu alerts us to the fact that Apple's cash position would be out of this world had they chosen to keep it all for itself.
"What would have happened if Apple had not paid any dividends, bought back shares and taken on debt?"
The answer is in the blue line. It would be about $210 billion today. There are about a dozen companies other than Apple worth more than that amount.
On a related note, Apple's capital return program has had a discernible impact on the company's share price.
Bloomberg reported not too long ago:
The iPhone maker is up 25 percent since it spent $18 billion on its own shares between January and March and rallied 32 percent after a $16 billion buyback in 2013. Those are the highest four-month returns among the 20 biggest quarterly repurchases by any company since 1998, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and Standard & Poor's.
As it stands now, Apple shares are on the cusp of an all-time closing high, having just barely topped $100 a share earlier today.