Apple Investors Still Wondering: How’s Jobs?

28Feb09

SAN FRANCISCO -(Dow Jones)- Gerald Lee attended Apple Inc.’s(AAPL) annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday for one main reason: To get whatever information he could about the health of Chief Executive Steve Jobs, who unexpectedly took a six-month medical leave last month.

He didn’t get much.

“I left the way I came in, not knowing a whole lot,” Lee, a San Francisco resident, said after the one-hour meeting.

Apple shareholders have called for more details on the state of Jobs’ health, as well as the company’s succession plans. Jobs, a pancreatic cancer survivor, surprised investors last month, when he suddenly announced his medical leave, saying his situation was “more complex” than initially thought.

Jobs’ health is considered a critical element in determining the price of Apple shares because of the outsized role the CEO plays at the computer maker. Though many CEOs are highly recognizable, few are as important to their companies as Jobs is with Apple. The executive is both the face of Apple and its chief innovator.

Over the last six months, investors have looked for any clue on the state of Jobs’ health. On several occasions, his gaunt appearance has sparked selloffs in the company’s stock.

Many of the investors who flocked to Apple’s Cupertino, Calif. headquarters for the meeting came away dissatisfied. Among the questions they wanted answered explicitly: Will Jobs be back at June as expected and will he have the same workload if he is?

Much of the information given by the board at Wednesday’s meeting is already publicly available. Genentech Inc. (DNA) Chief Executive Arthur Levinson, tasked with answering the inevitable questions about Jobs’ health, said he was confident the board had met its disclosure obligations regarding the founder’s health. He added little specific about who might eventually replace Jobs and when that might be.

“Succession planning is something this board takes up regularly,” Levinson said. “You can assume we will do that responsibly.”

That wasn’t enough for some investors.

“He is a significant asset, and anything of significance that’s happening to him should be disclosed,” Louis Malizia, who represented the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said of Jobs after the meeting.

Apple shares ended Wednesday’s regular session 1% higher at $91.16. In after- hours trading, they continued rising to $91.30.

-By Ben Charny, Dow Jones Newswires; 415-765-8230; ben.charny@dowjones.com

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