Prince Alwaleed says new Apple management must be judged in two years

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Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said the time to judge Apple Inc. management will be in two years because the next five to six quarters will be mainly the influence of founder Steve Jobs.

“The strength of Steve Jobs is that he established a company that’s clearly moving on all cylinders and clicking very well,” Alwaleed, 56, who owns Apple shares, said in an interview airing today on public television’s “Charlie Rose” program. “For the next five, six quarters, this will be still the legacy of Steve Jobs. I think maybe two years from now, we will see what happens with the new management.”

Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Cupertino, California- based Apple, hasn’t signaled any major departures from the strategy laid out by Jobs, who died in October. The company last month reported the best quarter in its history, with profit doubling to $13.1 billion on record sales of the iPhone, iPad and Mac computers.

One area where Cook, 51, has demonstrated more flexibility is use of Apple’s balance sheet. The company has accumulated $97.6 billion in cash and investments, money it’s “actively” discussing how to use, the company said last month. Jobs had opposed suggestions from shareholders for a dividend or stock buyback.

Alwaleed said he doesn’t have an investment in Facebook Inc. The social networking website filed paperwork with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last week to raise $5 billion in the largest Internet initial public offering on record.

“Once it goes public, we will evaluate the company and see where it is heading,” Alwaleed told CNBC in an interview yesterday. “We will get more information.”

Alwaleed owns a stake in Citigroup Inc., the New York-based bank led by CEO Vikram Pandit, 55. The lender, the third-largest in the U.S. by assets, probably will increase its dividend or repurchase shares this year, Alwaleed said. Citigroup’s dividend stands at 1 cent.

“The situation is very promising,” said Alwaleed, who owns about 21.8 million Citigroup shares, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. “Getting back some capital to the shareholders is very important, and I think he is on the right track.”

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