“Apple Inc. announced that it hired Luca Maestri, the current Chief Financial Officer at Xerox Corp. as Apple’s new corporate controller,” Zvi Bar-Kochba writes for Seeking Alpha. “Maestri was the CFO at Nokia Siemens Networks before joining Xerox in February of 2011. Xerox announced it will conduct an external search to replace Maestri, who will leave Xerox on February 28.”

“While the move from CFO to controller is a move down in title, Apple’s more substantial business makes it no step downward,” Bar-Kochba writes. “Moreover, this hire may indicate that Apple is preparing a succession plan for its CFO, Peter Oppenheimer, who has held the role since 2004. Oppenheimer was initially Apple’s controller for the Americas, after leaving Automatic Data Processing Inc. to join the tech giant.”

Bar-Kochba writes, “Maestri may also be in indicator of coming increases in share repurchasing and/or dividends. Apple continues to hold a sizable cash horde. According to Ben Reitzes of Barclays, ‘Maestri is a champion of shareholder return.’ Given Apple’s recent downturn in share valuation, an increase in its repurchase plan may help buoy shares and even prompt a new leg up… An increased repurchase plan [may be announced] at some point in the coming months, and possibly around the same time it announced the initiation of its present repurchase plan and dividend, which was on March 19 of last year. Given this recent hiring of Luca Maestri, if earnings later this month meet or beat expectations, the announcement of a dividend increase, share buyback increase, or both appear probable in before the end of the first quarter of 2013, or Apples second quarter of fiscal 2013.”

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Related article:
Xerox CFO Luca Maestri leaves to become Apple corporate controller – January 11, 2013