Ahead of the Bell: Apple to meet with shareholders

CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) ? Apple is getting ready to hold its first shareholders meeting since the death of co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs.

The forum, scheduled to start at 10 a.m. PST Thursday, is expected to include a question-and-answer session with Tim Cook, who succeeded Jobs as Apple’s CEO six months ago. Jobs died at the age of 56 on Oct. 5 after a long battle with cancer.

Although some people are still mourning the loss of Jobs, Apple Inc. has given its shareholders plenty of reasons to celebrate. Driven by booming sales of the company’s iPhone and iPad, Apple’s stock price has climbed by 50 percent since last year’s annual meeting to create an additional $160 billion in shareholder wealth.

Apple, which is based in Cupertino, Calif., now has a market value of $478 billion ? more than any other publicly traded company. Its shares closed Wednesday at $513.04.

The company’s success has enabled Apple to accumulate nearly $98 billion in cash. The hoard has raised questions about whether Apple might start paying a quarterly dividend ? a topic that might crop up again Thursday.