Apple Inc has awarded its COO a bonus valued at $22 million for leading the company while chief executive Steve Jobs was on six months' medical leave last year.

The cash-and-stock award came at Jobs' recommendation, and was made in recognition of Tim Cook's "outstanding performance in assuming the day-to-day operations" at Apple while Jobs was out, the company said in a filing on Friday (March 12) with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Many analysts and investors believe Cook could one day succeed Jobs as CEO at Apple, although the company has never disclosed any succession plan.

Cook received a $5 million bonus plus restricted stock award worth roughly $17 million, based on Apple's closing share price of $226.60 Friday. Half of the stock is scheduled to vest on March 10, 2011, and the other half on March 10, 2012, as long as Cook stays with Apple through those dates.

"The bonus is a reward and is also to stay competitive," said Kaufman Bros analyst Shaw Wu.

"Cook has been targeted by other companies, and he's proven to be very adept and capable at leading Apple. I think they need to keep the conversation competitive to keep him from getting lured away," he said.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment beyond the regulatory filing.

Jobs stepped away from his duties in January 2009 for health reasons, although he remained involved in major strategic decisions. Cook took over day-to-day operations.

Jobs, a pancreatic cancer survivor, underwent a liver transplant while on leave, returning to the company in late June.

While Jobs was on leave, Apple's shares surged roughly 70%.

Cook was named COO in 2005. He is responsible for managing Apple's supply chain, sales, service and support. He also leads the company's Mac computer division.

He joined Apple in 1998 as SVP of operations. Prior to that he held executive positions at Compaq and International Business Machines Corp.

According to Apple's proxy statement, Cook received total compensation of roughly $14 million in 2009.

Shares of Cupertino, California-based Apple closed up 0.5% at $226.60 on Nasdaq.

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