FORTUNE -- All the noise over what Apple ought to do with its cash almost makes one wistful for the days when everyone obsessed only over Apple's products.
Time coverboy Carl Icahn is on Apple's (AAPL) case to give back more of its cash to shareholders -- like himself. It's a perfectly reasonable position to take. Apple's hoard had grown to the nine figures with no reasonable prospects for spending that kind of money. It is a credit to whiners like Icahn that Apple already has committed to spending $100 billion on a combination of stock buybacks and dividends.
On Wednesday, Icahn told Time and his nearly 119,000 Twitter followers that he plans to make a precatory proposal that Apple increase its buyback program. (Precatory means "of, relating to, or expressing a wish or request." In other words, it is non-binding. It's his way of saying "pretty please.")
The catch is that Icahn acknowledged his new request is "not at the $150 billion level." That's a reference to his previous suggestion for the amount Apple should jump on straight away. (Read to the end and you'll see that Icahn volunteers to not receive any of that $150 billion, presumably because he'd benefit anyway from the rise in the stock price.)
So what is the new level? CNBC, citing a source, says Icahn wants $50 billion now, and that he'd like it by the end of the current fiscal year, which is 10 months away. Icahn didn't tell Time that figure, and he hasn't yet tweeted it. We're relying on CNBC's source for it.
But assuming the figure is correct, Icahn has gone from $150 billion right now to $50 billion when Apple can get around to it. For the most part, the commentary has been of the variety that Icahn remains on Apple's case, riding it hard for the cash hoarder it is. Forbes.com wrote that Icahn "wasn't joking" about the $150 billion buyback. Except it appears he was.
For the record, Apple has authorized buybacks of $60 billion and has already made $23 billion worth. It has paid out a total of $13 billion in dividends. The company said Wednesday it plans to respond on the matter sometime early next year.
So let me get this straight: Icahn had dinner with Apple CEO Tim Cook, he's scaling back his request for cash that should be paid to shareholders, and Apple's stock has risen dramatically in the last six months, from around $400 to $565?
Can we now please return to grousing about important things, like when Apple's television will arrive?
He cut his buyback demand from $150 billion to $50 billion and gave Apple a year to do it.
FORTUNE -- From the headlines, you would think that Carl Icahn, America's most famous corporate raider, had donned a headdress and gone into his war dance:
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)
Icahn's $2 billion stake amounts to half of 1% of Apple's outstanding shares.
FORTUNE --Reuters and Bloomberg made a big deal last week about the fact that Carl Icahn had increased his investment in Apple (AAPL)
from 3.8 million shares (worth $1.8 billion)
to 4.7 million shares (worth $2.4 billion).
Why this was considered news, given that Icahn disclosed it three weeks ago, was not clear from their reports.
Their reports also failed to put those MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Nov 17, 2013 8:29 AM ET
If you go by the published targets of one out of three analysts, Apple is overpriced.
FORTUNE --Some of the Apple (AAPL) analysts' 12-month price targets in the attached spreadsheet may be out of date. Many were set last spring, and if they've been updated since then, I didn't get the memo.
But several of these targets were just reiterated or reset earlier this week.
Scott Craig, for example, raised Merrill Lynch's target from $520 MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Oct 24, 2013 4:08 PM ET
Sends letter to Tim Cook urging him to boost his share repurchase plan to $150 billion
FORTUNE -- Tim Cook is getting the full Carl Icahn treatment.
A phone call (and some tweets about it) in August.
A meeting (also tweeted) in September.
And on Thursday, an 860-word letter, published on his new shareholder's roundtable website.
In the corporate raider's latest missive he reiterates in public the points he presumably made to Cook in private: MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Oct 24, 2013 10:36 AM ET
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
Tim Cook spent a record $16 billion last quarter. Carl Icahn wants him to spend more.
FORTUNE -- 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 MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Sep 26, 2013 4:44 PM ET
Carl Icahn's $34 billion tweet has Apple analysts scrambling (again) to raise their targets.
FORTUNE -- Two days after Carl Icahn tweeted that he had taken a "large position" in Apple (AAPL) -- driving the company's share price to as high as $504.25 and adding $33.5 billion to its market cap -- RBC Capital's Amit Daryanani raised his price target to $525 from $475.
That way he escaped being one of the dozen MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Aug 15, 2013 11:21 AM ET
Two tweets, 3 minutes, $9 per share.
FORTUNE -- If there were such a thing as a empty Over-the-Counter calories, this is what they would look like.
At 2:21 p.m. Tuesday someone using the Twitter account @Carl_C_Icahn -- presumably the corporate raider/hedge fund manager himself -- issued the first of a pair of tweets:
That was followed four minutes later by this:
Apple's (AAPL) shares, which had been trading at $475.77, did what stocks MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Aug 13, 2013 3:13 PM ET
Also: Carl Icahn nabs a 10% stake in Netflix; Path comes to the iPad.
How hurricane Sandy slapped the sarcasm out of Twitter [THE NEW YORK TIMES]
At my home in suburban New Jersey, a 30-foot limb dropped down at 4 p.m., so the illusion that this was an event happening to someone else quickly dissipated. And at 8 p.m., just when we hunkered down in front of the big screen, the MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Nov 1, 2012 8:01 AM ET
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