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Why China prompted a major Apple investor to sell billions in company stocks

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One of Apple's major investors, billionaire Carl Icahn, says he's out.

The activist investor sold all of his 45.8 million Apple shares, he said in an interview on CNBC, after the tech giant reported its first quarterly earnings drop since 2003.

"We no longer have a position in Apple," said Icahn, who made about $2 billion from the investment. He says he is worried about the company's position in China, once Apple's largest area for growth, blaming the Chinese Communist Party's controlling "attitude."

"I think Apple has — which we said all along, which is great — great barriers to entrance," Icahn said of China. "In China, for instance, they will come in and make it very difficult for Apple to sell there. They could theoretically, you know … They’re basically, in some senses I would say, perhaps benevolent but a benevolent dictatorship. I don’t know if benevolent is the right word."

The Chinese government is known for putting pressure on tech companies — they recently pushed Apple to shut down their book and movie downloading service — which Icahn cites as his chief concern.

China proved to be one of Apple's biggest shortcomings in the most recent earnings report, seeing a 26 percent year-over-year revenue drop. In an CNBC interview Apple CEO Tim Cook said that while the company still has faith in the Chinese market, weaknesses in China and Taiwan were undeniable.

Apple's latest earnings report fell short of market expectations: The company's stock lost 7 percent of its value in after-hours trading, which has been further exacerbated by Icahn's decision to sell his shares.

Icahn, who once called his Apple investment a "no-brainer," still had kind words for the company, congratulating Cook for doing a "great job" with a "great" company. As Vox's Timothy Lee explains Apple is still doing incredible well:

Apple is still an enormously profitable company — it pulled in more than $10 billion in net income last quarter. But the latest figures represent the end of an era in which CEO Tim Cook — and before him Steve Jobs — could seemingly do no wrong.

However, the disappointing results don't necessarily mean that Cook has made any major management blunders. The issue is simply that the iPhone has been one of the most successful consumer products in world history. It's an almost impossible act to follow.

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