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."
A dinner, a tweet, a pop in the market.
FORTUNE -- He's done it again.
In August, corporate raider Carl Icahn announced on Twitter that he believed Apple (AAPL) at $470 was "extremely undervalued." He said that he had taken a "large position" in the company, had talked to Tim Cook about accelerating the company's record $60-billion stock buyback program, and would be meeting with Cook to discuss it further.
On the strength MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Oct 1, 2013 10:44 AM ET
No hard news, just rumors of a large buyback or special dividend
FORTUNE -- After trading down all day -- and all year, for that matter -- Apple (AAPL) began moving higher at 2:26 p.m. Monday and didn't stop until it hit resistance at $438. The stock closed at $437.87, up $6.15 (1.42%) for the day.
Wall Street watchers were left scratching their heads."What's up with AAPL?" was the headline on Barrons. "Apple MORE Philip Elmer-DeWitt - Mar 11, 2013 4:29 PM ET
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