John Paczkowski

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Apple Explains Why Icahn’s Buyback Proposal Should Be Shot Down

icahn_great_and_powerfulApple’s annual shareholder meeting will be held on Feb. 28, and among 11 proposals to be discussed will be one from Carl Icahn.

Revealed in a proxy statement filed by Apple on Friday afternoon, Icahn’s advisory proposal asks Apple to increase the size of its stock buyback program in 2014 to $50 billion. That’s a move the company’s board of directors recommends that shareholders vote against. Apple already increased the size of its dividend and stock buyback program to $100 billion this year, and it’s not taking kindly to Icahn’s repeated and querulous efforts to force its hand — as cordial as they may or may not be.

“In March 2012, the company announced a quarterly dividend and share repurchase program totaling $45 billion,” Apple explains. “In April 2013, the board authorized a dramatic increase, more than doubling the size of the program to $100 billion, raising the dividend, and increasing the share buyback authorization to $60 billion. As such, the company is one of the largest dividend payers in the world and has the largest share repurchase authorization in history. The company has executed aggressively against the capital return program, spending $23 billion of the $60-billion share repurchase authorization in fiscal 2013 alone.”

The proposal, and Apple’s recommendation against it, below:

Shareholder Proposal of a Non-Binding Advisory Resolution Relating to the Company’s Capital Return Program

The Company has been advised that High River Limited Partnership (“High River”), 767 Fifth Avenue, 46th Floor, New York, New York, 10153, a record holder of 1,000 shares of the Company’s common stock, intends to submit the following proposal at the Annual Meeting on behalf of itself and Icahn Partners LP, Icahn Partners Master Fund LP, Icahn Partners Master Fund II LP, Icahn Partners Master Fund III LP, and other beneficial owners, including Mr. Carl Icahn:

“RESOLVED, that the shareholders hereby approve, on an advisory basis, High River’s proposal that Apple commit to completing not less than $50 billion of share repurchases during Apple’s fiscal year ending September 27, 2014 (and increase the amount authorized for share repurchases under its Capital Return Program accordingly).”

The Company’s Statement in Opposition to Proposal No. 10

The Board recommends a vote AGAINST Proposal No. 10.

The Board and management team are thoughtfully considering options for returning additional cash to shareholders and are currently seeking input from shareholders as part of the Company’s regular review.

The Company’s success stems from the Company’s unique ability to combine world-class skills in hardware, software and services to deliver innovative products that create new markets and delight hundreds of millions of customers. This success has created tremendous value for the Company’s shareholders.

With breakthrough products and services such as the Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad and App Store, the Company has created huge market opportunities, and the Board and management team believe the opportunities that lie ahead are just as exciting. Given such large and global markets, the Company competes with large companies around the world, many with their own significant technical capabilities and significant capital. This dynamic competitive landscape and the Company’s rapid pace of innovation require unprecedented investment, flexibility and access to resources.

Successfully innovating and executing against these large opportunities also requires careful stewardship by the Board and management team, and the Company’s evaluation of capital return is conducted in the context of supporting the Company’s continued business success and desire to deliver attractive returns to long-term shareholders.

The Board and management team have demonstrated a strong commitment to returning capital to shareholders over the past two years. In March 2012, the Company announced a quarterly dividend and share repurchase program totaling $45 billion. In April 2013, the Board authorized a dramatic increase, more than doubling the size of the program to $100 billion, raising the dividend, and increasing the share buyback authorization to $60 billion. As such, the Company is one of the largest dividend payers in the world and has the largest share repurchase authorization in history. The Company has executed aggressively against the capital return program, spending $23 billion of the $60 billion share repurchase authorization in fiscal 2013 alone. These share repurchases have been funded in part by a $17 billion debt offering, the largest ever as of the time of issuance.

In the first six quarters of the capital return program, dividend payments and share repurchases totaled over $43 billion. Dividends and share repurchases must be funded by domestic cash, and the Company has returned to shareholders or invested all of the domestic cash generated by its business and raised through the issuance of debt since the beginning of the program.

While the Board and management oppose this shareholder proposal, they are fully committed to returning cash to shareholders. The Board and management team believe that capital should be returned to shareholders on an efficient and sustained basis, and that the evaluation of capital return should be performed regularly and carefully with the best long-term interest of the business and shareholders in mind.

The Company is updating perspectives on its capital return program for 2014 and beyond. The Company is collecting input from a very broad base of shareholders, believing that the input of all shareholders is important and should be considered holistically. The evaluation of the capital return program continues to be thoughtful, deliberate, and consistent with a conservative financial policy that supports risk-taking and innovation. Consistent with its pattern for the last two years, the Company is on track to complete its regular review and thorough analysis and to announce any changes to the current program by March or April of 2014.

The Board believes that the Company’s management team and Board are in the best position to determine what is in the best long-term interest of the Company’s business and recommends a vote AGAINST this proposal.

Vote Required

Approval of Proposal No. 10 requires the affirmative vote of (i) a majority of the shares present or represented by proxy and voting at the Annual Meeting and (ii) a majority of the shares required to constitute the quorum.

Recommendation of the Board

The Board recommends a vote AGAINST Proposal No. 10.

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