By Jon Swartz and Scott Martin, USA TODAY
SAN FRANCISCO -- Is activist investor Carl Icahn ready to give Apple the Dell treatment?
tweet Tuesday about building a sizable stake in Apple, the world's most
valuable tech company, sent the company's stock up nearly 5% -- and
perhaps sent the blood pressure of executives at the Cupertino,
Calif.-based firm skyrocketing, as well.
"We currently have a
large position in Apple," Icahn tweeted, without providing specifics.
"We believe the company to be extremely undervalued."
The Wall Street Journal, citing an unnamed person familiar with the situation, says Icahn has more than $1 billion in Apple stock. USA TODAY could not confirm that figure. In an interview with the Journal Tuesday, Icahn said he wants the buyback to happen when Apple shares hit $525.
"We plan to speak again shortly," wrote Icahn, who added he had talked to Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Apple spokesman Steve Dowling called the conversation "very positive."
disclosure sent Apple shares soaring; they closed up $22.21, at
$489.57. But the positive spin may be temporary, given Icahn's
well-documented clashes with high-profile tech companies.
no stranger to taking to Twitter to put pressure on companies in which
he invests. The activist shareholder has been dropping tweets aimed at
Dell, stressing his vehement opposition to founder Michael Dell's plans
to take the PC maker private. Before that, billionaire Icahn collected
big chunks of shares in Yahoo and Motorola, and sought changes at those
Icahn seems to be trying "to use an angle and his ability
in the press to get the stock price to move," says University of
California, Berkeley business professor Richard Sloan.
predilection for forcing the issue at tech companies comes at a
particularly delicate time for Apple, which is under a withering assault
from the likes of Google and Samsung Electronics amid questions about
whether Apple can still produce new hardware hits.
"This is bad
for Apple. They don't need any distractions (while trying to) regain
their market share lead in phones," analyst Patrick Moorhead says. "I
expect Icahn to run a play similar to Dell, where he is questioning how
Apple uses their cash and how they are making decisions."
Apple's uncertain future was underscored by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who told CBS This Morning's
Charlie Rose this week that Apple will languish without its co-founder,
the late Steve Jobs. "He was our Picasso," Ellison said. "He was an
Ellison made it clear that Apple, which
struggled after Jobs was ousted in the mid-1980s, is likely to do so
again, nearly two years after Jobs' death.
Apple's next initiative is expected Sept. 10, when it is scheduled to announce new products, including a new iPhone.
has coped with disgruntled investors such as hedge-fund manager David
Einhorn, who wanted the company to return some of its hoard of cash to
But with the mercurial Icahn, the stakes might be
higher - and the terrain far riskier - as Apple navigates intensified
competition and lingering doubts about what lies ahead.