Apple on Monday sought to allay speculation about the health of Steve Jobs, with an open letter from its chief executive explaining that he was suffering from a hormonal imbalance.
Mr Jobs, who has revived the company’s fortunes over the past decade and is seen as critical to its future, alarmed investors when he appeared noticeably thinner at recent Apple news conferences.
“As many of you know, I have been losing weight throughout 2008,” he said on Monday. “The reason has been a mystery to me and my doctors. A few weeks ago, I decided that getting to the root cause of this and reversing it needed to become my number one priority.”
Doctors had now discovered the reason for the weight loss.
“A hormone imbalance . . . has been ‘robbing’ me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy,” he said, adding that a relatively simple remedy had been found and he would stay on as chief executive during his recovery.
“I have given more than my all to Apple for the past 11 years now. I will be the first one to step up and tell our board of directors if I can no longer continue to fulfil my duties as Apple’s CEO.”
In a statement three weeks ago, Apple had failed to give a reason why Mr Jobs would not deliver his annual keynote speech to the Macworld conference, scheduled for today in San Francisco.
Apple shares fell sharply at the time amid fears important Apple products had been delayed or Mr Jobs’ health had deteriorated, despite his successful treatment for pancreatic cancer in 2004.
The company’s shares were up more than 5 per cent in afternoon trading in New York at $95.80 on Monday.
Analysts at Standard & Poor’s Equity Research reiterated their “strong buy” rating for Apple.
“We believe this unusually frank statement should help focus investor attention away from leadership succession and towards Apple’s keynote address at Macworld this week and possible product introductions,” they said.
However, some commentators were critical of Apple for earlier implying his absence from Macworld was due to the decreasing importance of the show.
Former Wall Street analyst Henry Blodget said on the Clusterstock research blog that Apple had failed to be forthright: “Shareholders have every right to be outraged about the way the company has handled this.”
The company said in a statement: “If there ever comes a day when Steve wants to retire or for other reasons cannot continue to fulfil his duties as Apple’s CEO, you will know it.”