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Apple board obligated to disclose material changes in Jobs' health


Investment bank Piper Jaffray is assuring Apple investors Friday that the company's leadership would be required to disclose in a timely fashion any changes that would prevent Steve Jobs from maintaining his role as chief executive.

"We believe Steve Jobs commands attention from investors given his high profile as founder of the company and his hands-on approach to Apple's products," wrote analyst Gene Munster. "As such, we believe that Apple's board has a responsibility to disclose any changes that may impede him to continue to serve."

Specifically, Munster cited the nature of Jobs' public appearances and his active participation in the development of products like Macs and iPhones as some of the more noteworthy qualities that make him material to the company.

Similarly, the analyst said, one of the company's most competitive advantages is its executive team as a whole, who "share a collective track record of consistently outpacing their competitors in terms of hardware and software innovation coupled with robust product marketing and financial discipline."

Given his level of involvement and the fact that he is a cancer survivor, Apple shareholders have remained focused on Jobs' capacity to continue to serve as the company's leader.

During Apple's quarterly conference call Monday, chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer was asked to comment on status of Jobs' health given a news report by the New York Post that renewed focus on the matter. He refused to do so, however, citing the co-founder's right to privacy, which in turn weighed on Apple shares.

Since then, however, the New York Times has reported that Jobs is actively reassuring some of his closest associates that rumors of his health are greatly exaggerated.

Given the due responsibility of Apple's board and the fact that no announcements have been made to date, Munster told clients there is "no reason to believe that Steve Jobs will not continue to serve as Apple's CEO."

As such, the analyst maintained his Buy rating and $250 price target on shares of the Cupertino-based company.