Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Is Apple ripe for another massive stock buyback?

September 26, 2013: 4:44 PM ET

Tim Cook spent a record $16 billion last quarter. Carl Icahn wants him to spend more.

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chart_ws_stock_appleinc_2013926152915_240xaFORTUNE -- In April, Apple (AAPL) announced what is apparently the largest share repurchase program in the history of capitalism: $60 billion before the end of 2015.

By the end of June the company had already bought $16 billion worth of its own stock -- more than 25% of its eleven-quarter allocation in the space of one quarter.

In retrospect, writes YCharts' Carla Fried, "Apple's massive fiscal third quarter repurchase action looks like it may well be a buy-low move. The stock opened the quarter at $442 per share, hit a quarter low of $392 and ended at $409." (See chart at right.)

Two things have changed since then: 1) the stock is now 20% more expensive (compared with 5.5% for the S&P 500), and 2) Carl Icahn has entered the picture.

The corporate raider announced in August that he had taken a "large position" in Apple -- reportedly $1 to $2 billion -- and that he had been pressuring Tim Cook to accelerate the buybacks.

The company's fiscal year -- and the second quarter of its big repurchase program -- ends Saturday.

And according to CNBC, Icahn and Cook have a meeting scheduled for the following Monday.

The meeting has already sparked controversy. In a note to clients Thursday, Global Equities Trip Chowdhry called on the company to "fully disclose all past and future discussions that Apple has with Carl Icahn," citing the SEC's Regulation FD, which requires companies to make public any material information they exchange with outsiders in private.

Chowdhy is no fan of Apple's efforts to return cash to shareholders. He wrote in June that it had "completely backfired." Now he's questioning Icahn's intentions and the nature of his Apple holdings.

"Though Carl Icahn has announced he own[s] Apple Stock, there is no certainty that he is net long Apple Stock," Chowdhry wrote on Thursday. "There is a perception among investors that Carl Icahn is actually net short Apple Stock."

I asked Chowdhry if he could cite the source of that "perception," but he declined to elaborate. He complained that the last time I wrote about him, he received several death threats.

Please, gentle readers, no more death threats. Life is too short.

NOTE: An earlier version of this story misstated the number of quarters Apple has to spend the $60 billion. It's 11, not 9.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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