October 3, 2023

Apple Inc. Apple’s chief operating officer Jeff Williams sold $30 million in stock last week in what one expert considered an “opportunistic” move by the longtime Apple executive.

Williams sold 187,730 shares of Apple AAPL,
at an average price of $159.76 on March 22, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission released Friday.

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That sale was done in conjunction with a 10b5-1 trading plan, which allows executives and other company insiders to arrange stock sales under certain conditions, such as timing and pricing. Williams’ plan was adopted on November 29, 2021, and revised on February 16, 2023.

Because sales made under trading plans are made under predetermined terms, they do not always send useful signals to the investment community, but sometimes they do. Williams’ sale struck VerityData research director Ben Silverman as “a negative valuation data point,” he wrote in a report to clients, because Williams “deviated from his established practice of selling at a time of restricted stock vesting and In doing so the target is sold at the price.

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He sold the shares he received from his latest vesting, but those restricted units vested in early October, when Apple’s stock was trading near $138.

“The message here is that they thought the stock was undervalued at first,” Silverman told MarketWatch. “He held out, which was smart, and now it gives us an idea of ​​where he’s resting”.

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Williams has two big stock vestings annually — in April and early October — and he usually sells shortly after the unit vests. He did not sell last October, implying that at the time of vesting “the stock was below the minimum selling price threshold employed by Williams, and an amendment to the 10b5-1 plan in February either lowered that threshold or established Trigger price,” Silverman said in his report. “It’s a change in behavior and it’s an opportunistic one.”

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Selling at recent levels doesn’t necessarily mean Williams thinks Apple’s shares are overvalued, Silverman told MarketWatch, but it does suggest they could be undervalued.

Apple did not respond to MarketWatch’s request for comment on the stock sale or what changes were made to Williams’ 10b5-1 plan in February.

Williams still owns 489,816 Apple shares, which is worth about $80 million based on current levels.

Apple shares are up about 22% so far in 2023, as they neared the close of trading on March 21, the last full session before Williams sold the stock.