Carl Icahn, America's most powerful activist investor, has warned Apple's board he is "not going away" after meeting the iPhone maker's chief executive.
Icahn is pushing for Apple to spend $150bn lifting its stock price by buying back its own shares, and invited Tim Cook to dinner at his apartment in New York on Monday to discuss the plan.
"We had dinner at my apartment with a bunch of CEOs," said the investor in an interview on Tuesday. "We had a commonality, we know the technology world … but the conversation revolved around the buyback, we pushed quite hard for it."
The $150bn would be more than twice as much again as the company has committed to spend on a share buyback.
The conversation had become "a little bit testy" when the subject was raised, Icahn told the CNBC network. "We will continue the discussion and the dialogue. I can promise you that I'm not going away before they hear a lot more from me concerning this."
Icahn disclosed a stake in Apple in August, and is believed to have invested more than $1.5bn in the company. Under Steve Jobs, Apple cancelled its dividend and remained deaf to Wall Street clamour for cash returns.
But the technology giant has amassed the world's largest corporate cash pile – reported at $147bn in June – and since the company's share price began falling in the winter, Cook has made efforts to distribute the wealth Apple cannot spend on its own business.
Last year he reinstated the dividend and in April the technology giant announced a record $100bn distribution for shareholders, which included a $60bn buyback. Icahn believes the company can afford to spend a further $150bn, by borrowing at 3% in a market where interest rates are at historic lows.
"It makes no sense for this company with their multiples … not to do a major buyback," he said. "And there's another thing I mentioned … the fact that you can borrow money so cheaply today. I don't know when we'll see this again … Apple can borrow money and buy stock at such a low valuation."
His comments sent traders piling into Apple's stock, which rose more than 2%, gaining more than $11 to reach $488 during morning trading in New York. Icahn took to Twitter to describe his meeting with Cook as "cordial", saying the pair would continue their dialogue in three weeks.
Icahn bowed out of a battle against computer entrepreneur Michael Dell's bid to take his company private earlier this year, but his counter-offer succeeded in wringing a higher price from the founder and his private equity backers.
His reputation in the technology sector is redoubtable. He succeeded in winning three seats on Yahoo's board and his activism helped push handset maker Motorola into a takeover by Google.
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