Steve Jobs’ sudden decision to take medical leave for the third time has left investors anxious about the company’s future, in particular its product roadmap for the coming year.
While the announcement was made during a US public holiday where markets were closed, the group’s shares dropped 8% on the Frankfurt stock exchange, where Apple holds a secondary listing.
Jobs had announced yesterday that he would be keeping the chief executive title, but would hand off the company’s day-to-day running to chief operating officer Tim Cook. Unlike 2009 where he announced a six month leave of absence and came back more than a week early, Jobs did not provide a definite return date, fueling speculation that he might not be coming back.
In a move that served to further worry shareholders, Apple declined to specify the nature of Jobs’ illness, prompting speculation that his cancer had returned. Jobs had undergone a liver transplant in 2009 due to a rare form of pancreatic cancer.
“Unfortunately, even Steve Jobs isn’t superhuman. There may come a point where health problems necessitate a change in leadership,” Noah Elkin, an eMarketer analyst, toldFinancial Times. “Everyone knows at some point it will happen.”
While Cook had garnered wide praise for his previous interim leadership stints at the company, Jobs is still widely seen as the inspiration behind the company’s success. It was only after Jobs’ return in 2009 that Apple launched the much-lauded iPad.
Brian Marshall, an analyst at Gleacher & Co, toldThe Wall Street Journal that Apple shares are likely to fall when trading resumes Tuesday in the US.