UPDATE 1-Icahn to end push for Apple buyback after ISS suggests 'no' vote
Feb 10 (Reuters) - Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn said he saw no reason to keep demanding that Apple Inc increase its stock buyback plans, citing the company's recent stock repurchases as well as an influential proxy adviser's call against his proposal.
In a letter to Apple shareholders on Monday, Icahn wrote that he had decided to ditch his nonbinding proposal, "especially when the company is already so close to fulfilling our requested repurchase target."
Apple shares were up 1.8 percent at $529.20 in morning trading.
Icahn for months has been asking Apple to boost its plans for a stock buyback program, proposing it give back $50 billion more. On Sunday, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc recommended that shareholders vote against Icahn's proposal, saying such a motion would "micromanage" how the company uses capital.
Icahn wrote: "In their recommendation, ISS points out, and we agree, that 'on the spectrum of options for allocating capital, the board appears to have been sluggish only in returning excess cash to shareholders,' and even though the company has in place 'one of the largest buybacks in history,' we agree with ISS that this effort seems 'like bailing with a leaky bucket' when 'given the scale of the company's cash reserves."'
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook told the Wall Street Journal last week that the company had repurchased $14 billion of its stock in the two weeks since it reported disappointing first-quarter results.
"If Tim (Cook) wants Icahn's proposal shot down, he needs the stock to look strong going into the meeting," Antony Filippo, a Toronto-based independent investment manager who does not own the stock, told Reuters on Friday. "He needs to show that management is doing something about the stock's underperformance."
In late January, Icahn tweeted that he had bought another half-billion dollars of Apple stock, boosting the value of stake in the company to more than $4 billion. At that time, Icahn told Reuters that the decline in Apple shares presented "a great opportunity" to add to his position.