Shares of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) climbed more than 1 percent in early trading on Tuesday, and in an indirect way, one of the catalysts could be activist investor Carl Icahn. Apple has reportedly disclosed that it could float a proposal to increase the dividend and expand the scope of the stock repurchase program during its shareholder meeting scheduled for February 28.
Icahn, the man behind holding company Icahn Enterprises (NYSE:IEP), has publicly been lobbying for Apple to expand its share repurchase program for months. In August, Icahn took to Twitter to advocate his position, announcing that he “had a nice conversation with Tim Cook” and that they “discussed my opinion that a larger buyback should be done now.” Icahn owns about 3.8 million shares of Apple stock, making him about the 28th largest shareholder.
Icahn has a mixed reputation as a shareholder, serving sometimes as an ally to management and sometimes as an enemy. But far from being adversarial, Icahn seems to favor Apple. The stock itself has seen better days, but that fact is part of Icahn’s position: He believes the company should repurchase even more shares while they are still relatively cheap.
With annual payments of about $11 billion, Apple sits comfortably in the pantheon of the largest dividend-paying companies in the world. Apple’s capital return program to shareholders doubled in size earlier this year, when it announced its record-setting repurchase program.
Apple announced in a preliminary proxy statement that one of the items for the meeting was “A shareholder proposal by Carl Icahn of a non-binding advisory resolution that the Company commit to completing not less than $50 billion of share repurchases during its 2014 fiscal year (and increase the authorization under its capital return program accordingly).”
However, according to The Wall Street Journal, Apple has advised shareholders to reject Icahn’s proposal. With a couple of product launches ostensibly on Apple’s plate for the coming year, the company looks like it wants to have plenty of cash on hand in case it needs to deal with anything unexpected.