The 'missile' Carl Icahn fired at Apple was more like a love noteDecember 5, 2013: 8:07 AM ET
He cut his buyback demand from $150 billion to $50 billion and gave Apple a year to do it.
- Icahn beats Apple buyback drum (again) with new proposal (CNET)
- Carl Icahn Rallies Apple Shareholders To Demand Stock Buyback (Cult of Mac)
- Carl Icahn ups ante in crusade for Apple buyback (Associated Press)
- Carl Icahn Just Fired A New Missile At Apple (Business Insider)
The two key phrases in those 137 characters -- phrases the headline writers seem to have missed -- were "precatory proposal" and "not at $150 billion level."
A precatory proposal, from the Latin precari ("to pray"), is a request -- not a "missile" or a "demand" -- for a nonbinding shareholder vote that Tim Cook is free to ignore.
Rather than upping his ante, as the AP had it, Icahn may have just folded.
"Tim Cook is doing a good job with the business," Icahn told Time's Rana Foroohar, repeating a line he's used more than a few times. "I think he's good whether he does what I want or not."
A $50 billion buyback, as it happens, was the high end of a proposal laid out last month by Bernstein's Toni Sacconaghi:
"We believe," Sacconaghi wrote in a Nov. 11 note to clients, "that AAPL ought to commit to an ongoing return of cash and look to take on incremental debt to provide flexibility and enable some upfront share repurchases. Specifically, we believe that a one-time buyback of $30 - $50B, and an ongoing commitment to return 75% of annual free cash flow generated would be viewed positively by investors. Moreover, a 60% dividend/40% buyback split of returned cash would generate a ~3.9% yield at current levels."