Forbes says the search cannot be confirmed, but it is a distinct possibility given the massive drop in Apple's stock price over the last six months.
In September 2012, Apple's stock price reached its zenith, at $702 per share. Since then, it has lost nearly half its value. The company's stock had plunged to $390 per share as of April 19 at the market's close. The company has lost about half its overall market value since Tim Cook took over as CEO in August 2011 just prior to Steve Jobs' death in October 2011.
Large shareholders in the company have been selling off stock consistently over the last six months, which has contributed to the decline in share price.
What has investors spooked? Apple's momentum -- or, more accurately, its lack thereof.
[ Word is that Apple's next iPad, due out this fall, will weigh little more than a pound. Read New iPad To Be Thinner, Lighter: Report. ]
Apple's share price hit its high point at about the time the company introduced the iPhone 5. The iPhone 5 was the first new iPhone form factor from Apple in two full years, as the iPhone 4 and 4S were nearly identical. It was thinner, lighter and more powerful than its predecessors, and it put Apple on a more-even playing field with the company's fast-moving competitors. Although Apple later introduced the iPad Mini and a revamped iMac desktop computer in October, it's all been downhill from there.
Apple has not announced any new products for six months. Apple hasn't gone this long without a major product introduction in about 13 years. At the same time, Apple's competitors, notably Samsung, have introduced a half dozen new smartphones and tablets. Further, Apple has had to apologize several times for faulty software and other problems.
Forbes points out that Apple still has plenty of supporters in the investing community. It says none of the 37 analysts at major security firms who follow Apple have downgraded Apple's stock to a "sell," but some have downgraded it from "strong buy" to "moderate buy." Investors, it seems, find some solace in the fact that Apple has about $137 billion in the bank, which it might use to offer dividends or even buy back stock.
Fortune calls to question the veracity of the Forbes report, however. It claims that Forbes' sources are not friends of Apple and have interests other than Apple's in mind.
"As far as I know," wrote Fortune's Philip Elmer-DeWitt, "[Cook] still has the deep respect of the analysts who know the company best and -- most important -- the confidence of the board of directors who granted a million restricted shares of Apple as an incentive for him to stick around for at least a decade."
Apple reports earnings on April 23. Investors will be looking to Cook for some reassurance that things are going to get better.
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