As promised last night, Carl Icahn has posted his latest letter to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) on his new website, Shareholders’ Square Table, which launched this morning. The site did experience a glitch which prevented some from logging in, but Icahn tweeted just a short while ago that the glitch has been fixed. Now those who sign into Icahn’s website receive a copy of this email:
Icahn also tweeted that he will appear on CNBC at noon today to talk about the website and his views on Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) with Scott Wapner.
Icahn’s letter posted on his website
ValueWalk was one of several media outlets which obtained a copy of Icahn’s letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook. The full letter is embedded at the bottom of the page, but the short of it is that he wants Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) to begin a tender offer to buy back $150 billion worth of shares at its current price as soon as possible. He also raised his stake in the company from approximately 4 million shares to about 4.7 million as of the date of the letter. That’s a 22% increase in the size of his position, and he says he continues to see Apple as being “dramatically” undervalued, even with the “recent market appreciation.”
He goes on to remind Cook that he agreed to speak with him again in three weeks and called Apple his “most compelling investment.” He also emphasized that he isn’t criticizing the company’s management or operational strategy. He said they “could not be more supportive” of Apple’s current management team, its culture and the “innovative spirit it engenders.”
He says it’s just about the share buyback. You might remember that earlier this month, Icahn did have some words to say about Apple’s board, saying that it’s “not God” and that it “should be listening to what the shareholders want.” But he left his borderline rude comments for the board until the end of the letter.
Icahn’s letter seems like a shift in tactics
Icahn can get pretty rough with company boards and management when he doesn’t agree with them, and his comments about Apple’s board weeks ago suggested he might be heading in that direction with the company—at least with the board. However, the tone of this letter is actually more polite than some of his letters to other companies have been in the past. It sounds like he’s taking aim at the board and leaving management alone, at least for now.
He emphasizes that the time for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) to buy back shares is now while they are undervalued. He also says that this opportunity won’t last forever and that although the board’s recent share buybacks seem significant, they aren’t big enough. He notes that a buyback of $150 billion would be “unprecedented because of its size” but believes that it’s “appropriate” because of Apple’s size and financial strength.
Borrowing versus using cash flow
Carl Icahn says Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) produced more than enough cash flow to handle a $150 billion buyback, but if it borrowed the full amount at a 3% interest rate to begin a tender at $525 per share, then it would see a 33% boost in earnings per share. He closed by saying it’s the board’s responsibility to recognize opportunities to increase value for shareholders, including “large and well-timed buybacks.”
And he did offer a final jab at Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) board, suggesting that he doesn’t think the board has a person with “a track record as an investment professional.” He also said if the board continues to delay executing his suggestion, then it reflects “this lack of expertise on the board.”
In addition, he pledged to withhold his own shares from the proposed $150 billion tender offer, highlighting that his intentions are long term rather than short term.