Takeover rumours sour the big Apple

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The Independent Online

New York

Speculation over the future of Apple and its embattled boss Michael Spindler is rife once more after gloomy warnings from the company that it may be facing an unprecedented loss in the quarter ending 31 December.

The forecast has reinforced the belief of analysts that Apple may soon be forced to seek a buyer to survive and that Mr Spindler's bumpy five- year tenure as chief executive may soon be terminated.

Meanwhile Mr Spindler has hinted that he may enact a savage job-cutting programme in attempt to revive Apple, with some analysts predicting that as many as 1,300 positions, or 7.4 per cent of the workforce, may be slashed.

Mr Spindler said the company, which has around 10 per cent of the US market, was reviewing all of its operations and "will take appropriate actions to address the challenges".

Apple has never before made a loss in its first fiscal quarter, which includes the pre-Christmas retail period when computer sales should be at their most robust. In August, the company initiated price cuts of up to 40 per cent in a risky bid to build sales and market share.

As Apple's fortunes deteriorate, and the price of its shares dips, so anticipation of a buy-out is heightened. By the same token, however, the takeover buzz is protecting Apple shares against any sudden free-fall.

There have been rumours for months about a takeover of the company, with the most likely suitors ranging from IBM, which collaborated with Apple on developing the PowerPC computer chip, to Oracle, Sony of Japan and Motorola. .