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Apple Buys Up $14 Billion in Own Stock Over Last Two Weeks

CEO Tim Cook tells the Wall Street Journal that Apple seized the opportunity created when shares cratered after last month's earnings report.

Asa Mathat

When Apple shares cratered after last month’s earnings report, CEO Tim Cook saw an opportunity and engaged in an unprecedented buyback, scooping up $14 billion in shares over the past two weeks.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Cook said that the company was surprised by the drop and wanted to be “aggressive” in seizing the opportunity.

“It means that we are betting on Apple,” he told the paper. “It means that we are really confident on what we are doing and what we plan to do.”

An Apple spokesman confirmed the stock repurchases, but didn’t comment beyond Cook’s statements to the paper.

Apple’s buyback comes ahead of a shareholder meeting at the end of the month and amid calls by Carl Icahn for Apple to do more with its gigantic cash holdings. Icahn has amassed more than $3 billion worth of Apple shares.

Cook told the paper that the company isn’t philosophically opposed to buying a big company, but nor is it just making a list of ways to spend its $160 billion in cash. Apple makes lots of acquisitions, but they tend to be of the small or tiny variety, with none over $1 billion.

“We’ve looked at big companies,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “We don’t have a predisposition not to buy big companies. … We have no problem spending ten figures for the right company, for the right fit that’s in the best interest of Apple in the long-term. None. Zero.”

Update, 7:12 pm PT: In response to Cook’s revelations, BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk said he was raising his expectations for per-share earnings and hiking his price target on Apple’s stock.

“In light of Tim Cook’s statements that the company purchased $14 billion of stock in past two weeks relative to our estimate of $5 billion, we increased our Fiscal 2014 EPS estimate by $0.56 to $41.56 and our Fiscal 2015 EPS estimate to $46.00 from $45.00,” Piecyk said in a research note. “As a result our price target increased to $552 from $540 based on 12.0x our new Fiscal 2015 EPS estimate. Our estimates could rise further based on additional disclosures of share repurchase activity. We expect share repurchase activity to step up to $10 billion per quarter in Fiscal 2015.”

Meanwhile, an updated version of the Wall Street Journal piece quotes Icahn as concurring with Cook’s optimism for Apple.

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