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Apple CEO Tim Cook cites record sales and 'unbelievable' year

Associated Press

Apple Inc. Chief Executive Tim Cook took a figurative victory lap at his company's annual shareholder meeting at its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., one day after he announced details about the smartwatch that Apple plans to start selling next month.

A year ago, some investors were voicing frustration over Apple's lagging stock and activist Carl Icahn was pressing Cook to return more cash to shareholders. But no complaints were heard Tuesday. Apple shares are up 65% from a year ago, the company has a market value of more than $700 billion — making it the most valuable U.S. company in history — and it will soon bump AT&T Inc. to join the benchmark Dow Jones industrial average.

Apple sold a record 200 million iPhones in 2014, which provided the bulk of the company's $200 billion in revenue. Cook cited those and other milestones in what he called an "unbelievable" year. He also said Apple returned $57 billion to shareholders through dividends and stock buybacks last year.

Its stock fell $2.63, or 2.1%, to $124.51 on Tuesday, amid a broader market decline, as some analysts questioned whether the company's Apple Watch will be a hit. Cook has vowed that the new wearable gadget will change the way that people use the Internet, as previous Apple products including the iPhone and iPad have done.

The company also said it had work to do on diversity efforts.

Two speakers, civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson and a black Apple shareholder who did not say his name when he spoke, urged Cook to improve diversity in Apple's leadership and board. Apple has no black or Latino directors, and 12 of the 15 top executives listed on its website are white men.

Jackson has pressed Silicon Valley companies to improve diversity. He praised Cook for releasing workforce demographics statistics, as several other top tech companies have done, but urged Apple to follow Intel Corp.'s lead in setting more specific goals.

Cook promised more progress. Later in the meeting, he introduced two Apple vice presidents who are black women: Lisa Jackson, the former Environmental Protection Agency administrator who now runs Apple's environmental programs, and Denise Young Smith, the company's top human resources official.

"Our diversity is increasing," Cook said. "I want it to be better. It will be better."

As for future projects, Cook acknowledged that iPad sales are down but said he's "extremely bullish" on Apple's partnership with IBM to create new iPad business software and "other things in the pipeline." An iPad with a larger screen is rumored to be in development.

Cook ducked questions from two investors who urged him to buy or partner with Tesla Motors Inc., the high-end electric car maker. Apple has hired several automotive engineers but has not confirmed reports that it may be working on its own electric car.

"We're very focused on Car Play," Cook said, referring to Apple software used by several automakers.

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