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Billionaire investor Icahn steps up pressure on Apple

Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook holds up the new iPad Air during an Apple event in San Francisco, California October 22, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbrai
Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook holds up the new iPad Air during an Apple event in San Francisco, California October 22, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbrai

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Billionaire investor Carl Icahn said on Wednesday that he has filed a shareholder proposal with Apple for a much smaller stock buyback plan than he has advocated previously, as he continued to pressure Apple to share more of its cash pile.

"Gave $AAPL notice we'll be making a precatory proposal to call for vote to increase buyback program, although not at $150 billion level," Icahn said in a tweet.

CNBC said Icahn's plan calls for a $50 billion buyback program.

Icahn had been urging Apple to buy back $150 billion worth of shares. Icahn owns approximately 0.5 percent of Apple's outstanding shares, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Icahn on Tuesday told Time magazine that he filed a shareholder proposal with Apple on November 26, three days before the deadline for measures to be voted on at the company's next annual shareholders meeting.

Known for decades of strong-arm tactics, including proxy fights, Icahn has repeatedly made it clear that his proposal is not a sign that he is against Apple's management.

Icahn, who has already met Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook and Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer to discuss the issue in the past months, couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

"As part of our regular review process, we are once again actively seeking our shareholders' input on our program, and as we said in October, the management team and our board are engaged in an ongoing discussion about it which is thoughtful and deliberate," Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said. "We will announce any changes to our current program in the first part of calendar 2014."

Pushing for an additional $50 billion buyback is a major step back from his earlier demand that Apple return an additional $150 billion to shareholders. Apple is currently in the midst of returning $100 billion to shareholders, including a share repurchase program of $60 billion.

Icahn told Time magazine that Cook is willing to consider his views and the last conversation he had with the Apple CEO was a 20-minute phone call on November 21.

Icahn said Cook found the "conversation sort of interesting."

"He said, 'Look, you've accomplished a lot, and we want to listen to you.'"

(Reporting by Poornima Gupta and Jennifer Ablan; Editing by Leslie Adler, Bernard Orr)

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