Activist investor Carl Icahn has decided to start pressuring Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) to buy back even more shares of its stock, and right now there’s plenty of debate about whether it can or even should. Some analysts say the company could double its share buyback plan, while others say that even if it could, it doesn’t need to.
A look at the history of share buybacks at both Apple and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) suggests that if Apple is trying to raise its share price, a share buyback probably isn’t the answer. Daniel Eran Dilger of Apple Insider runs through the history of buybacks at both companies.
Apple’s share buyback history
We won’t go into as much detail as Apple Insider here, but they note an interesting trend. The trend with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s share buybacks seem to suggest that the company takes advantage of its low share prices. However, those share buybacks don’t appear to do much to prop up its stock price.
Early this year the company appeared to bow to the demands of hedge fund manager David Einhorn, who had been pushing it to buy back shares or increase its dividend to return capital to shareholders. It didn’t do so until earlier this year, but that plan didn’t have a huge effect on the stock price.
In July it dipped again ahead of the company’s latest earnings report before climbing again and now topping $500 per share. In that report, it was revealed that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) bought back $16 billion worth of shares during the second quarter of the year.
Microsoft’s share buyback history
The author then goes to Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s share buyback history. He notes that in July 2004 the company said it would use cash to buy back $30 billion in shares. By 2006, after spending two years to buy back almost $30 billion worth of shares, the company’s stock fell 18.45 percent.
Starting in 2007, the company bought back more shares over a period of five years. Again, we saw the company’s stock price drop by 18.27 percent. And history goes on.
So perhaps the question with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) isn’t whether it can buy back more shares, but rather, whether it actually should if all it wants to do is boost the share price.