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Icahn backs off plan for $50 billion Apple stock buyback

Activist investor Carl Icahn is backing off his proposal that Apple spend $50 billion buying back its own stock during the current fiscal year that ends in September.

Icahn told fellow Apple stockholders Monday in a letter that he sees no reason to persist in light of the Cupertino, Calif., company’s recent buybacks and a recommendation from an influential firm that gives advice to big stockholders.

Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., or ISS, said in a report that Apple stockholders should vote against Icahn’s non-binding proposal.

The company said that while Apple Inc.’s board “has failed to articulate a strategy for addressing its long-term capital needs,” the Icahn proposal would micromanage the technology company’s capital allocation process.

Apple representatives did not immediately return a call from the Associated Press seeking comment.

Apple has repurchased $14 billion of its stock in the two weeks since it reported first-quarter financial results and a second-quarter revenue outlook that disappointed investors.

ISS noted that the company already appears to be on track to buy back at least $32 billion in stock in fiscal 2014. But the firm also said that, “on the spectrum of options for allocating capital, the board appears to have been sluggish only in returning excess cash to shareholders.”

Icahn said he agrees with that observation, but in light of the company’s recent, aggressive buybacks “we see no reason to persist with our non-binding proposal, especially when the company is already so close to fulfilling our requested repurchase target.”

The billionaire investor added he was pleased that Apple’s board and CEO Tim Cook have taken an aggressive approach to repurchases “that we hoped to instill with our proposal.”

Icahn’s letter came only a few days after a message posted on his Twitter account urged Cook to keep repurchasing stock.

Just last month, Icahn raised his stake in Apple, revealing on Twitter that he’d put another $500 million into Apple stock. He already owned about 4.7 million Apple Inc. shares worth more than $2.5 billion.

Icahn said Monday that he was extremely excited about the company’s future.

Apple stock rose more than 1 percent, or $5.99, to $525.67 in morning trading Monday, while the Nasdaq exchange slipped.

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