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Greenberg: Icahn Couldn't Win Apple Proxy Fight

By: Herb Greenberg | 10/24/13 - 02:03 PM EDT

Stocks in this article: AAPLDELL

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Carl Icahn, on CNBC, said if Apple (AAPL - Get Report) doesn't do the $150 billion tender offer he suggested in a letter Thursday morning, he may test the waters with a proxy fight.

Reality: His chance of winning a proxy battle for Apple is considerably less than he had with his failed proxy fight for Dell (DELL).

Apple is simply too iconic -- as opposed to Icahnic -- for any kind of activism, certainly right now. Some companies just have an aura that makes investors root for the company rather than the agitator.

Apple, even if it's beyond its glory, still fits in that category.

Even Icahn said he believes it doesn't fit with the typical company he would go after.

In the end, for him it's all about doing something with the $140 billion-plus in cash on its balance sheet.

But financial engineering to push a stock higher in the short-run, rather than spending the loot on innovation or a smart acquisition, rarely works for tech companies.

"IBM spent $50.5 billion buying back stock since 2012 to reduce shares by about 16%," says longtime buyback critic Ken Hackel, author of the text, Security Valuation and Risk Analysis.

"Couldn't they have made better value-enhancing investments?"

Or with Apple, focusing on running the business rather than running up its stock. If it does a good enough job with the former, the latter should take care of itself.

Over and out.

--Written by Herb Greenberg.

Herb Greenberg, editor of Herb Greenberg's Reality Check, is a contributor to CNBC. He does not own shares, short or trade shares in an individual corporate security.

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