Apple has bought out just short of 100 small businesses over the last six years as part of its corporate acquisition spree, CEO Tim Cook told shareholders at a virtual meeting on Tuesday.
According to Bloomberg, Cook said that Apple has been buying small companies at a rate of about one every three to four weeks. Notable acquisitions for Apple in the last year alone included VR/AR startups NextVR and Spaces, a weather app called Dark Sky, mobile payments service Mobeewave, and others. Apple has always tried to keep details of its acquisitions in the dark, but prices in the hundreds of millions for some of the firms have been suggested. Apple reportedly bought 20-25 companies in the six months preceding May 2019 alone.
“We’re not afraid to look at acquisitions of any size,” Cook told shareholders, according to MacRumors. “Focus is on small, innovative companies that complement our products and help push them forward.”
Acquisition sprees by massive firms like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google have come under scrutiny from antitrust regulators — a House Judiciary Committee report in October 2020 found that the four companies “once were, underdog startups that challenged the status quo [but] have become the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons.” The Federal Trade Commission demanded details on Apple’s deals to buy other companies last year; however, Apple tends to buy smaller companies that fall well below the threshold for regulators to step in. Most allegations of anticompetitive behaviour by Apple have focused on the different (if not entirely unrelated) issue of its monopoly stranglehold on iOS and the App Store.
Last year, Cook told CNBC that Apple had evaded antitrust questions about its buyouts because its “strategy has been to buy companies where we have challenges, and IP, and then make them a feature of the phone,” rather than simply taking over the competition.
At the meeting on Tuesday, Cook also claimed that Apple (which soared to a $US2 ($3) trillion market cap in 2020) somehow doesn’t have a dominant position in any markets, per Bloomberg:
“Apple doesn’t have a dominant position in any market we compete in, not in any product category, not in any service category, and not in software or apps,” the CEO said. “This competitive marketplace pushes all of us to be better. So while scrutiny is always fair, accusations like these fall apart after a reasonable examination of the facts.”
Other issues addressed during the call included Apple’s environmental impact and new iOS features that crack down on certain kinds of tracking behaviour, the latter of which is the subject of an ongoing feud with Facebook. Cook said the company is on track to be carbon neutral by 2030 and that he hoped Apple’s stricter privacy safeguards would be a “ripple in the pond,” according to MacRumors.
Per CNBC, shareholders rewarded Cook during the meeting with (a advisory and non-binding) vote to approve more compensation for execs, including a lavish equity package of up to one million shares for Cook, and shot down a proposal to limit executive pay to be more in line with that of employees.