Apple stocks dive on Steve Jobs health concerns
Shares of Apple were down some 7 per cent in early trading Wednesday amid investor concerns that undisclosed health problems were the behind iconic chief executive Steve Jobs' decision not to address the MacWorld Expo next month, dpa reported.
Jobs, 53, has given the keynote address at the past 11 Macworlds, but the company announced Tuesday that it would end its participation after the January 6 expo in San Francisco and that Apple's keynote speech there would be made not by Jobs but by Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing.
Speculation that Jobs' health was behind the decision sent Apple's stock down to around 89 dollars per share by early afternoon Wednesday, down from 95.43 dollars at the close of trade Tuesday.
Industry analysts largely supported the company's decision to withdraw from the event given its ability to independently stoke interest in its new products.
But the decision to withdraw Jobs from a final speech at a venue where he introduced such iconic products as the iPhone and the Macbook was less popular in light of recent speculation about the health of the company's founder who had surgery four years ago to treat pancreatic cancer.
"It's insignificant that they're backing out of Macworld," analyst Gene Munster told Bloomberg. "But it's significant that Steve Jobs isn't giving the final keynote."
Apple was downgraded by Oppenheimer to a market perform, or neutral, rating after analyst Yair Reiner cited past rumours of Jobs' health and said the company needs to disclose more information or elaborate on a succession plan. "Until such time, we can no longer continue to recommend Apple as a long-term investment," Reiner wrote.
"This change is bound to once again raise questions about Jobs' health," Needham & Co analyst Charles Wolf told clients in a report on the matter. "Our reliable sources, which we spoke with this fall, indicated that Jobs is cancer free."
Wolfe backed the withdrawal from MacWorld saying that Apple was planning to more frequently introduce new products at its own events, like the two held this fall that gave way to new iPods and Mac notebooks.
More than 3.5 million people visit Apple's retail stores each week, and along with its website, the company said it directly reaches more than 100 million customers around the world.