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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Apple Shares Slump Amid CEO Worries

As posted by: Wall Street Journal

Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs's unexpected decision to pull out of the high-profile Macworld trade show left Wall Street scrambling for an explanation as investors drove down Apple's stock 6.6% Wednesday.

The news set off a flurry of speculation about the reasons behind the decision. At the top of the list was renewed concern by investors that Mr. Jobs, a pancreatic cancer survivor, is sick again.

Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said, "If Steve or the board decides that Steve is no longer capable of doing his job as CEO of Apple, I am sure they will let you know."

The company said it was scaling back on trade shows because they have become a "very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers."

Apple's stock closed Wednesday at $89.16, down $6.27 on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange.

Charlie Wolf, a veteran Apple analyst at Neeham & Co., said he was flooded with calls Wednesday by investors concerned about Mr. Jobs's health, though Mr. Wolf himself doesn't believe the Apple CEO has cancer. "The market is totally ridiculous," Mr. Wolf said.

Instead, Mr. Wolf believes Apple's move is related to how Macworld has locked the company into making a big news announcement in January rather than at a date of Mr. Jobs's choosing. "Apple is hostage to the particular timing of the event," said Mr. Wolf.

Apple has also moved towards holding more of its own product events, and withdrawing from Macworld allows the company more freedom to set its own product release schedule.

Other analysts said they are inclined to believe Apple's explanation if for no other reason than that the company would face a lawsuit for failing to disclose material information about Mr. Jobs's health. "They would have a legal nightmare on their hands," said Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray.