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Apple Returns $18.8 Billion to Investors After Record Debt Offering

Updated from 5:44 p.m ET to reflect additional detail quarterly share repurchase numbers and to include CFO comment.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Apple (AAPL - Get Report) has completed one of the biggest share repurchases in U.S. corporate history, after buying back about $16 billion in shares during its fiscal third quarter.

Apple's buybacks come after the popular iPhone and iPad maker heeded the calls of stockholders, most notably David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital, to return some the company's cash stockpile to investors.

In April, Apple said it would increase its quarterly dividend to $3.05 a share as part of a plan to return $100 billion in cash to investors by the end of 2015.

The company then launched a record $17 billion debt offering to finance buybacks and dividend increases, in a move that was applauded by investors such as Einhorn of Greenlight Capital.

Apple's near $16 billion in fiscal third quarter share buybacks is just less than the cash the company raised in its blockbuster debt offering, according to Bloomberg data. Meanwhile, Apple also said it would pay out a $3.05 a share quarterly dividend on August 15.

"We generated $7.8 billion in cash flow from operations during the quarter and are pleased to have returned $18.8 billion in cash to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases," said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple's CFO

As a result of rising dividend payouts and share buybacks, Apple's cash stockpile only grew slightly in the quarter, even as the company's top and bottom line earnings beat Wall Street expectations.

Apple earned $7.47 per share on $35.3 billion in revenue for its fiscal third-quarter. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were expecting $7.32 per share in earnings on $35.01 billion in sales. The company reported net income of $6.9 billion.

During the quarter, Apple sold 31.2 million iPhones, up from 26 million a year earlier. The company sold 14.6 million iPads during the quarter, compared to 17 million in the year-ago quarter, and sold 3.8 million Macs during the quarter, down from from 4 million in the year-ago quarter.

Gross margins during the quarter were 36.9%, down from 42.8% in the year-ago quarter.

"We are especially proud of our record June quarter iPhone sales of over 31 million and the strong growth in revenue from iTunes, Software and Services," said Tim Cook, Apple's CEO.

For the fiscal fourth-quarter, Apple expects revenue to be between $34 billion and $37 billion, with gross margins between 36% and 37%. It expects operating expenses to be between $3.9 billion and $3.95 billion.

Shares of Apple traded higher in extended-hours trading, rising nearly 5% to $437.74.

-- Written by Antoine Gara and Chris Ciaccia in New York

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