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iPad 3 launch news pushes Apple shares to $500bn high

Cook likely to shake out $7bn to the shareholders

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Apple's share value hit an unprecedented $500bn in pre-market trading this morning, making the company worth more than Poland and many other things. The spike followed just hours after the firm sent out an emailed invite to the iPad 3 launch.

Anticipation over the new fondleslab, due to be unveiled on 7 March, sent speculators into overdrive, pushing Apple to its highest stock valuation ever.

The boost inducts Apple in the hallowed hall of companies that have been valued at more than $500bn. That includes Microsoft, Intel and Cisco, which have all reached the heady height at the peak of the dot.com boom, but have since sunk well below that mark.

Given the huge haul, it seems likely that Apple CEO Tim Cook will break with tradition this year and hand out a dividend to shareholders. Over $7bn will be dished out, according to a calculation by Bloomberg, a cash avalanche that would work out as a quarterly dividend of $2 a share.

Investors in Apple have been getting antsy about the company's vast cash hoard – Cupertino has $97.6bn in cash and investments – which even Tim Cook described as more than he needed to run a company. A $7bn handout could be a nice way to calm them down. ®

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