On the Call: Apple CEO Tim Cook

On the Call: Apple CEO Tim Cook discusses company's approach to buying back stock

Associated Press

CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) -- Apple still has about $32 billion left to spend under a $60 billion buyback approved by the company's board last year, but that's not enough to satisfy activist investor Carl Icahn. He thinks Apple should invest $50 billion in its stock during the fiscal year ending in September. The company bought back $5 billion of stock during the first three months of the fiscal year, so that means it would have to pour another $45 billion into its shares before October to placate Icahn.

Already stuck well below its peak price reached in September 2012, Apple's stock sank another 8 percent late Monday following the company's release of its fiscal first-quarter results and a revenue outlook for the three months ending in March. The sell-off could provide Icahn with more firepower in his campaign to persuade Apple to earmark more of its nearly $159 billion in cash for stock repurchases.

Shareholders will get a chance to vote on the issue in a non-binding proposal on the agenda for the company's annual meeting on Feb. 28. The company is opposing Icahn's proposal.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, who is part of the company's eight-member board, didn't sound inclined to alter the current stock buyback program when the subject came up Monday during a conference call with analysts.

QUESTION: Your shares are around $500 tonight. I was wondering if you thought this was a good level and whether it was time to accelerate the buyback from current levels? You obviously generated a ton of cash in the quarter and what your latest thoughts are there?

ANSWER: Well, we've been buying back stock. As you know, last year we increased the program overall .... So we're a big believer in buying back the stock. And that doesn't change today, whether the stock goes up or down.

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