Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn has sold his entire stake in Apple, citing the risk of China’s influence on the stock. His announcement came days after Apple announced its worst quarterly results in 13 years after being hit by sagging iPhone sales in the Chinese market.
The decision surprised many analysts as he was known to be a great cheerleader of the Apple stock. Icahn owned 45.8 million Apple shares at the end of 2015 and started selling the stock in early 2016. He said China’s economic slowdown and also the risks of doing business with it triggered his decision to exit the stock.
“We no longer have a position in Apple. Tim Cook did a great job. I called him this morning to tell him that, I told him it’s a great company. He seemed sort of sad to hear that,” Icahn said.
Speaking to CNBC, Icahn also cautioned about the risks in US stock market and said a “day of reckoning” is inevitable unless some fiscal stimulus is pumped in.
He clarified that it is not the price that judged his decision, but it was the China factor. “I think it’s a very cheap stock. China could be a shadow for it, and we have to look at that.” Icahn made roughly $2 billion off the Apple trade for about three years, Reuters reported.
Apple shares plunged after Icahn’s comments trickled in. The sales at Apple dropped by more than a quarter in China, which is the second-largest market after the United States.
Icahn took a stake in Apple in 2013 and called the investment a “no brainer.” Those days his concerns were about Apple being undervalued.
In May 2015, in an open letter to Apple chief executive Tim Cook, Carl Icahn argued that shares of the iPhone maker were worth $240, some 90 percent more than the price at which it was trading. At $240 a share, Apple’s market cap would be $1.4 trillion, Icahn asserted.
Singing a different tune now, Carl Icahn is blaming China’s economic slowdown and worries about doing business with it.
The Chinese government could “come in and make it very difficult for Apple to sell there … you can do pretty much what you want there”, Icahn said.
Meanwhile, China’s crackdown on Apple products is still on. In early April, it shut down Apple’s iTunes movies and iBooks stores, following new regulations that imposed strict curb online publishing particularly by foreign companies, reports The Guardian.