Apple Rumors: Special Dividend?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Social media is funny. It can turn perception into reality, especially as it relates to finance.Rumors of a special dividend from Apple ( AAPL) have been making their rounds in recent days. I think it's something more than that.

For the third time in almost as many days, rumors on Twitter suggested that Apple would be doing a special dividend in order to help its lagging stock price, and return some of its $137 billion cash hoard to shareholders. Normally I don't pay much attention to these rumors; they're just cannon fodder most of the time. However, when the rumor makes the rounds multiple times within a few days, I at least pick my head up.

Apple has been in the crosshairs in recent weeks, as it relates to the cash on its balance sheet. Hedge fund manager David Einhorn suggested that Apple issue preferred stock, dubbing them "iPrefs," as a way for the market to realize the value of its cash. Einhorn's thesis is the iPref would pay a 4% dividend, and would trade at a face value of $50.

Berkshire Hathaway ( BRK.A) CEO Warren Buffett suggested that Apple "ignore" Einhorn, and instead run the business to create the most value over the next five to 10 years. That may involve buying back stock occasionally.

"You can't run a business to push the stock price up on a daily basis. Berkshire has gone down 50% four times in its history. When that happens, if you've got money you buy it. You just keep working on building the value," Buffett said during an interview on CNBC.

With the special dividend rumors being bandied about, I can't help but wonder if Apple is indeed listening to Buffett, and perhaps speeding up its buyback program. In March 2012, Apple announced its dividend and stock repurchase program, saying it would spend $10 billion buying back stock as part of a $45 billion capital return to shareholders. Apple started its buyback program last quarter, returning $4.5 billion to shareholders between the buyback and dividend.

In recent weeks, Apple has been more candid about potentially returning even more cash to shareholders, given it has more cash than it needs to run the business. At Apple's shareholder meeting, CEO Tim Cook noted Apple's board is in "very, very active" discussions on what to do with its cash.

I have no proof that Apple is speeding up its buyback program, but it is something to think about in light of the near daily special dividend rumor.

What do you think? Post your thoughts in the comment section below.

-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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