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Proxy adviser backs Apple in stock buyback fight with Icahn

Institutional Shareholder Services tells clients that the activist investor's buyback proposal is unnecessary in light of recent stock repurchases and dividend payouts.

James Martin/CNET

A prominent proxy advisory service has sided with Apple, recommending to its clients that they vote against a proposal by activist investor Carl Icahn that calls on the company to initiate a $50 billion stock buyback.

In a report to clients Sunday, Institutional Shareholder Services said the share repurchase proposal was unnecessary after recent stock buybacks and dividend payouts.

"In light of these good-faith efforts and its past stewardship, the board's latitude should not be constricted by a shareholder resolution that would micromanage the company's capital allocation process," according to the report, which was obtained by Reuters and The New York Times.

Apple has roughly $160 billion in the bank and investors -- most notably Icahn -- have been appealing to the company to return some of that money to shareholders. Icahn, who owns about $4 billion in Apple shares, has been waging a campaign since last summer that urged the company to step up its share repurchases. However, Apple has urged investors to reject Icahn's "precatory proposal."

Shareholders will be asked to vote on this at the company's annual shareholder meeting on February 28.

The report comes on the heels of an Apple stock buyback that resulted in the repurchase of $14 billion of its own shares in two weeks. Apple has now repurchased more than $40 billion of its shares within the last year, which is a record for any company over a similar time span, according to The Wall Street Journal.