Before I get started, I just need to inform you that I cannot talk about a stock that I own or am currently trading. This makes my opinion more objective, as there’s no monetary benefit.
Now, hedge-fund investor Carl Icahn has a lot more clout in the media and tweeting universe than me. The media and many traders (not me) follow his every move. So, on Tuesday, Icahn decided he needed to tell his many followers that he had acquired a “large position” in Apple Inc. (NASDAQ/AAPL). In his tweet, he says “We believe the company to be extremely undervalued.” The stock surged over four percent on the tweet, and Icahn makes more money.
I’m not sure what he means by a “large position,” but I assume it’s more than you and I can buy. Let’s say he purchased 10 million shares, or 1.1% of Apple, for argument’s sake. I assume it could be around this number, as he now has influence with Apple CEO Tim Cook and company. Say I was right. Icahn would have made a paper profit of $200 million. Of course, this assuming he bought the shares at around the market price prior to the tweet.
However many millions of Apple shares he purchased, one thing is for sure: Icahn is a happy man. The irony is that what Icahn did was akin to the questionable practice of “front running” a stock. Remember: Icahn first acquires the position in Apple and then sends out the tweet. For someone of Icahn’s influence on the stock market, it’s like buying before a major announcement that he is privy to. Sorry folks, but if Icahn was a broker or analyst, he would likely be reprimanded.
So, he gets away with it, I assume. Maybe the SEC should stop this kind of nonsense. Seriously, Icahn essentially traded on insider information and will likely get away with it.
Now he wants Apple to use its massive cash reserve to buy back more of its shares. The end result of the buyback would again drive the price of Apple up, and Icahn would make even more money. Read my thoughts on Apple in “Apple Has More on Its Plate Than Possible Tax Evasion.”
For those who feel that high-frequency trading gives machines an unfair advantage, what Icahn did was also ethically dubious.