NEW YORK -- Activist investor Carl Icahn urged Apple (IW 500/4) on Thursday to accelerate its share buybacks, saying the tech giant remains "dramatically undervalued" despite its recent runup.
In an open letter to Apple chief executive Tim Cook, the billionaire investor said Apple has been making "impressive strides" against its rivals in the tech sector and merits a "premium" valuation.
"Analogizing Apple to a modern day Secretariat, as this race continues, the further the distance grows between Apple and Google [and Google's hardware partners] in the premium device category," Icahn said. "Its leading ecosystem of products and services, added to peerless hardware design and quality, differentiates Apple from a simple hardware company."
Even though Apple shares have risen some 50% since Icahn began to agitate for changes last year, he said the company should be worth much more, and that boosting share repurchases could help increase value for shareholders.
A chart provided by Apple showed the company since 2012 had returned $74 billion to shareholders through dividends and buybacks -- which generally increase value by reducing the number of outstanding shares.
Icahn has a long history of taking positions in companies that give him the leverage to force changes in management or provide dividends to shareholders.
His letter said he holds some 53 million shares, or slightly under 1% of Apple's outstanding shares.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014