Apple buys back $14 billion of its shares; energy firm tries to divert toxic runoff in N.C.

February 7
INVESTMENTS
Apple buys back $14 billion of its stock

Apple has repurchased $14 billion of its stock in the two weeks after its first-quarter financial results and second-quarter revenue outlook disappointed investors.

Its shares rose 1.4 percent, to $519.68 on Friday.

Apple bought $12 billion of the shares through an accelerated repurchase program and $2 billion on the open market, the company confirmed.

Late Thursday, Apple chief executive Tim Cook said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the company was “surprised” when its stock dropped 8 percent the day after its earnings report and revenue outlook. He told the newspaper he wanted to be “aggressive” and “opportunistic.”

In the past year, Apple’s shares have started losing some ground because of concerns about slowing growth and increasing competition. Its $14 billion stock buyback signals the company remains confident in its business.

This is good news for investors, including Carl Icahn. The billionaire activist investor has been pressing Apple to boost its share repurchases. Last month, Icahn raised his stake in Apple, revealing on Twitter that he had put another $500 million into Apple stock. He already owned about 4.7 million Apple shares worth more than $2.5 billion.

Icahn has said he wants the Cupertino, Calif.-based company to spend $50 billion buying back its own stock during the current fiscal year ending in September.

“Keep buying Tim!” Icahn implored in a message posted Friday on his Twitter account. His tweet also noted that Apple still should have about $145 billion in cash even after the company’s recent investment spree.

— Associated Press

ENVIRONMENT
Firm works to divert toxic runoff in N.C.

Duke Energy said it is diverting the flow of coal ash from reaching a North Carolina river, but the Charlotte-based company cannot yet declare the massive spill fully contained nearly a week after it was first discovered.

Company spokeswoman Meghan Musgrave said Friday that engineers at the Dan River Steam Station in Eden have designed a containment system that is capturing nearly all of the toxic runoff and pumping it back into a storage basin.

The nation’s largest electricity provider said up to 82,000 tons of coal ash mixed with 27 million gallons of contaminated water have escaped since a drainage pipe running under a 27-acre waste pond collapsed Sunday, turning the river gray for miles.

Officials 20 miles downstream in Danville, Va., said they are successfully filtering arsenic, lead and other toxins from drinking water.

— Associated Press

Also in Business

Chrysler Group said it is recalling an estimated 9,655 full-size vans in North America to replace a part that could lead to the accelerator pedal getting stuck in the wide-open position. About half the affected 2014 Ram ProMaster vans are still on dealer lots and cannot be sold until they are repaired. Owners will be notified of the recall, which will be done at no cost, Chrysler said. A spokesman for Chrysler, a unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, said there were no reports of accidents or injuries relating to the issue.

Consumer borrowing rose $18.8 billion in December, the biggest increase since February 2013, the Federal Reserve reported. The category that includes auto and student loans increased the most, rising $13.8 billion. Credit card debt, which has been lagging, rose by $5 billion. That was the largest jump since May. The big increase pushed total borrowing to a fresh record of $3.1 trillion.

Google briefly surpassed Exxon Mobil as the second most-valuable company, trailing only Apple and underscoring the growing role of technology in the economy. Google, which became the world’s largest online advertiser through its dominant search engine, had a higher market capitalization during intraday trading Friday before falling back at the close in New York to a value of $395.4 billion compared with Exxon’s $395.7 billion. Apple had a market value of $463.5 billion. Software company Microsoft is No. 4 with $303.5 billion.

Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded Puerto Rico’s credit rating to junk status. The announcement by the credit rating agency comes just days after Standard & Poor’s cut the U.S. territory’s debt to junk, as well. A spokeswoman for Gov. Alejandro Javier García Padilla did not immediately return a message for comment. The island of 3.67 million people is struggling with $70 billion in public debt and a 15.4 percent unemployment rate, the highest compared with any U.S. state.

Gasoline futures jumped 2.5 percent to a high for the year amid speculation that seasonal maintenance and outages at U.S. refineries will tighten supply. An average of 1.6 million barrels a day of capacity will be offline this month, and another 1.4 million barrels in March and 850,000 barrels in April are scheduled to be shut for work. March gasoline rose 6.59 cents to $2.7489 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest settlement since Dec. 31.

— From news services

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