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Investor Icahn boosts Apple position to $3.85b
He had bought $640.8 million more shares in the company in just the past two weeks.
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SAN FRANCISCO - Activist investor Carl Icahn lashed out against Apple Inc again on Wednesday, and tweeted that he had bought US$500 million (S$640.8 million) more shares in the company in just the past two weeks, bringing his investment in the iPhone maker to over US$3 billion.

The billionaire, who has repeatedly urged Apple to return more cash to shareholders, told a TV channel later in an interview he intends to buy more stock at some point in "one of the greatest no-brainers of all time."

Icahn, known for decades of strong-arm tactics including proxy fights against major corporations, said on Twitter that the company was doing shareholders a "great disservice" by failing to boost its share buyback programme.

Shares of the world's largest technology company were up 0.5 per cent at US$552.09 in afternoon trading, after earlier climbing as much as 1.5 per cent.

Icahn has repeatedly made it clear that he does not oppose Apple's management. But neither is he going to walk away from his investment, he told Reuters in November.

On Wednesday, he promised an in-depth letter in a day or two, which will lay out his arguments to investors. And he said he will continue to try to drum up support from fellow shareholders for his buyback proposal.

"What bothers me a hell of a lot..., is cash of a $150 bln just sitting there doing nothing. And not to use it to do a huge buyback, is sort of disgraceful," Icahn said on channel.

"As far as I'm concerned, I'm actually better off with them doing nothing," he said. "I intend to buy (more) stock."

Icahn now holds likely less than 1 per cent of the company, but the billionaire has chalked up solid investment gains in the past months.

Apple's stock has surged 17 per cent since Icahn first disclosed a significant stake in the company on August 13. An additional $500 million investment would translate into roughly 900,000 shares at current levels.

It was unclear when or how much stock the activist investor, who in August began trying to get Apple CEO Tim Cook to agree to a US$150 billion buyback, most recently added to his portfolio. In a letter to Cook made public on October 24, Icahn said he had increased his stake to 4.7 million shares.

In December, Icahn filed a shareholder proposal with Apple for a much smaller additional stock buyback plan of $50 billion, a major step back from previous demands. Icahn said on Wednesday that reduction came after discussions with unidentified major shareholders of the company, without elaborating.

"We feel (Apple's) board is doing great disservice to shareholders by not having markedly increased its buyback. In-depth letter to follow soon," Icahn said on Twitter earlier.

"Since tweeting about our large position in $AAPL on Aug 13, when the stock was 468 per share, we've kept buying shares of this 'no brainer,'" Icahn added on his public profile.

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