Although I can't say for certain, I'd be willing to wager there are few things that famously bombastic activist investor Carl Icahn enjoys more than his own opinion.
In his defense, that same opinion has netted spectacular returns for his investors and made Icahn one of the richest people on planet Earth. Few, if any, investors are more effective in cajoling corporate change than Icahn is.
Over the past several years, Icahn has increasingly fixed his sights on many of the world's most prominent technology companies, including the now-private Dell, eBay, and again most recently, tech giant Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). And because few are more outspoken or quote-worthy than he, let's look at a few Icahn quotes that should say something about his plans for his largest investment in the year ahead.
1. On Apple's next capital return program
"Well, you know, I said it, not completely jokingly, that I would see nothing wrong with them doing a $100 billion tender offer. We think this company is so cheap. I spoke to Tim Cook. You know, I sent him the letter. I spoke to him the other night. And, you know, he believes the company is very undervalued, just as I do.
"You know, I mentioned the buyback to him, and obviously he couldn't say anything, noncommittal. But as an old poker player, you know, just reading the tea leaves, I think they will do a major buyback. That's my guess, though. But as a poker player, I'd throw a lot of chips on that bet."
2. On what sets Apple apart from the competition
"This company, I think, again looking at it simplistically, is really on a new paradigm. It is now, you know, you keep saying, do they have to keep introducing and introducing? And I really don't think that is factual to the extent that you have to keep doing that.
"In other words, people own this. It's not like, you know, one day you own a Buick and then the next you go buy a Cadillac. What it is, is it's sort of an annuity where you own an ecosystem. You know, you own the iPad, but you also own the Watch. You also own the iPhone 6. And you have all your collection of photographs on it. You have all your music on it. And you don't go away from that when you're used to it and when you're really involved in it.
"But you do go away, and you do get market share too from say the Samsung that really isn't quite on the same level. And Samsung is a good company and all, but they're making the hardware and Google's making the software. And it's a big difference when you have one company doing the whole thing.
"We analogize them to a horse. And remember, I'm not a big racing fan, but I love to look at the winners. And when I was younger, I went out to the OTB to bet on Secretariat. And in the Belmont, it ran away with it by 31 lengths. And I think that's what Apple is doing here."
3. On Apple CEO Tim Cook:
"I think he's a great CEO, one of the best I've ever met, and I've met a lot of them. ...I had dinner with him. I met him once or twice. I watched him. And he is what Silicon Valley should have."
4. On what Wall Street gets wrong with Apple
Referring to Apple's war chest Icahn stated "I mean, a lot of analysts say, 'Well, the $150 billion doesn't count.' And that is, sort of, from my way of thinking, is sort of insane. I mean, if you have $170 billion, doesn't it count?
"So if you have money, I guess they say, 'Well, you're not investing it at the moment. It doesn't have anything.' I mean, a lot of analysts look at it that way. So if you look at this company, and you subtract the cash from it, you are going at nine times earnings. And you are in a company that is in the greatest growth industry in the world with certainly part of an oligopoly, if not a monopoly, in their product. So you are going to be talking about a long time."
5. On whether Apple is a buy today:
"I think it is, because ... hey, look, that doesn't mean it isn't going to go up and down. But I do think it is a no-brainer, because I think it is almost better than it was when we talked about it in certain ways. I think, you know, the way the iPhone 6 worked. The [Apple] Watch is coming out, [which] we hope will be good. But you have to remember that what is amazing about Apple is you are really buying it, we think, at nine times earnings."
A lot to like about Apple
Clearly, Icahn remains quite bullish on Apple, and I have to agree with him. I recently ranked Apple among my top five best tech stocks to own in 2015 for many of the same reasons Icahn finds Apple so compelling. Between upcoming growth and relatively compelling value, Apple appears poised to continue to perform.