US hedge funds continue to dump Apple stakes

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US hedge funds continue to dump Apple stakes

While Icahn claims company is "dramatically undervalued".

Top US hedge fund management firms continued to reduce or slash stakes altogether in Apple during the first quarter, as shares of the iPhone maker rallied.

According to regulatory filings released over the weekend, Coatue cut its holding of Apple by selling 1.2 million shares during the first three months of this year, but it remains the fund's single biggest US stock investment, with 7.7 million shares.

Omega Advisors sold all of its 383,790 shares in Apple during the first quarter, while Rothschild Asset Management cut its stake by 107,953 to 938,693 shares.

David Einhorn's Greenlight Capital also cut its exposure in Apple during the first quarter, slashing its stake by 1.2 million shares to 7.4 million shares.

Apple shares rose 12.7 percent in the first quarter and have continued to increase. Since the end of March, the shares have risen 3.6 percent.

In the fourth quarter, David Einhorn's Greenlight Capital and Coatue Management reduced their stakes in Apple, which was a big winner in 2014, with its shares rising nearly 38 percent.

However, not every big hedge fund manager is souring on Apple. Ray Dalios' Bridgewater Associates increased its stake by 473,500 shares to 732,997.

And billionaire hedge-fund activist Carl Icahn kept his stake unchanged at 52.8 million shares as of the end of the first quarter.

"Dramatically undervalued"

Ican yesterday claimed Apple's stock was "still dramatically undervalued" and that it should be trading at US$240, nearly double its current price.

Icahn also used an open letter to Apple chief Tim Cook to call for it to execute a much larger share buyback, returning to a longtime theme of the activist investor's campaign for the iPhone maker to boost shareholder returns.

Apple shares sat at US$130.29 at the time of writing. The stock has gained more than a quarter since October, when Icahn first said it was undervalued.

Following pressure from Icahn and other activists, Apple boosted its share repurchase program in April to US$140 billion from US$90 billion announced last year and raised its quarterly dividend by 11 percent to 52 cents per share.

"It is our belief that large institutional investors, Wall Street analysts and the news media alike continue to misunderstand Apple," Icahn wrote in the letter.

Icahn, one of Apple's top 10 investors, has long urged the world's most valuable company to buy back more shares and boost its dividend.

"Apple is poised to enter and in our view dominate two new categories (the television next year and the automobile by 2020) with a combined addressable market of US$2.2 trillion, a view investors don’t appear to factor into their valuation at all," Icahn.

Apple has yet to officially acknowledge that it is developing what would likely be an electric, self-driving car.

It has also long been expected to enter the consumer television market with a more wide-ranging product than its current Apple TV box that allows users to stream programs from iTunes and other sources, but has said little about those plans. Past expectations that Apple would develop an actual television have so far been disappointed.

It is unclear how much insight Icahn has into the iPhone maker's plans for future products. An Apple spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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