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Thursday, December 28, 2006, 05:00 am PT (08:00 am ET)

Apple shares slammed (again) on renewed options concerns

Shares of Apple Computer dipped more than 4 percent for a second straight day as renewed options concerns sent yet another chill through the investor community, as it fathomed a Mac world without chief executive Steve Jobs at the helm.

Weighing on the company's stock is a report published Wednesday evening by the Financial Times, which stated that documents "that purported to show a full board meeting had taken place to approve" 7.5 million stock options to Jobs in 2001, "as required by Apple's procedures, were later falsified."

Shares of the Cupertino-based company sunk $3.27 or 4.01 percent to $78.25 in pre-market trading, reversing yesterday's rebound from a similar options-related scare which dragged the stock down by as much as 6 percent in the early morning hours.

In its report, the Financial Times said records relating to the falsified board meeting are now among the pieces of evidence being weighed by the Securities and Exchange Commission as it decides whether to bring charges against the company or its officials.

The report did not indicate who was responsible for falsifying the documents, but Apple in a public statement this October said its internal investigation into the options matter found no misconduct by any current officers.

However, Apple did say that the probe "raised serious concerns regarding the actions of two former officers in connection with the accounting, recording and reporting of stock option grants."

In a report by The Recorder published on the Law.com website on Tuesday, those two individuals were identified as former general counsel Nancy Heinen and former chief financial officer Fred Anderson. The publication also claimed that falsified documents lay at the core of Apple's options troubles and that the U.S. attorney's office has expressed "great interest" in the matter.

The report sent company shares on an early morning skid that eventually corrected itself after analysts on Wall Street downplayed the concerns, leveling the heads of frazzled investors.

Apple shares ended the day in the green, up one penny to $81.52.

Apple is one of more than 160 companies that are either under federal investigation or that have launched their own inquiries into whether they manipulated grant dates of options to benefit executives who received them, according to the Associated Press.

The results of the company's internal investigation into the matter are expected to be revealed in much detail as part of a delayed annual filing due this Friday.