At the end of the first quarter 2013 there were 946,035,000 fully diluted shares of Apple stock outstanding. At the end of the second quarter there were 924,265,000. The 21,770,000 shares that disappeared were purchased by Apple and retired. Apple shares traded between $390 and $463 during the quarter so it’s hard to know exactly how much Apple paid for them, but at an average of $426.5 per share Apple would have spent $9.3 billion
Basically, Apple are buying themselves out of the stock market. Being beholden to Wall St. means you’re a pawn in a dirty game run by people who don’t have that much interest in you. As a result, Apple are going private. Or at least, trying to by buying back cheap stock and retiring old stock.
If they spent $9.3b, they’re doing very well. Sure, there’s no extra talent acquisition but the long-term bet on their pipeline helps strengthen management as well as, ironically, the Wall St. perception of them. They have around $150bn to play with.
The downside is that to drive the share price down, Apple haven’t made much movement with new products, or even revamped products. A new iPad, iPhone or Mac would drive the share price up a fair bit; but a new product category would make the markets go wild. That’s calculated on Apple’s part, but even more interesting is that it’s hurting their global reseller network who rely on a steady release schedule for products.