In March 2012, Apple announced a combination of dividends and buybacks worth $45 billion to be paid out over three years. The Cupertino, Calif.-based firm has faced slowing earnings growth as the smartphone market matures and competition from Samsung, Google ( GOOG) and others intensifies. Last quarter, the iPhone accounted for $30.66 billion in revenue, or 56.2% of Apple's $54.5 billion in total sales, as the company sold 47.8 million of the smartphones. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters are looking for fiscal second-quarter earnings of $10.12 a share on $42.66 billion in revenue. That's down sharply from a year ago, when Apple earned $12.30 per share on $39.19 billion in sales.
Apple is set to report earnings after the close of trading April 23, and many expect to the iPhone maker to increase its dividend and buyback. It could even be a cushion for shareholders should Apple miss expectations. Any increase in buybacks could help offset the slowing year-over-year earnings growth Apple is expected to see, as the company waits for new products, such as the oft-rumored iPhone 5S, to help spur earnings. "An additional $10bn in share repurchases or $20bn total over three years would be 5% accretive to our estimates, and a $2-5bn dividend increase would lift the stock's yield from 2.5% to 3.0%," Milunovich wrote in his note. For the 2013 fiscal year, Milunovich expects Apple to earn $42.14 a share, and $49.30 a share in 2014. Apple shares were lower in pre-market trading, off 0.59% to $427.25. -- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York >Contact by Email. Follow @Commodity_Bull