Today: Carl Icahn settles on a figure he wants Apple (AAPL) to return to shareholders, and presents it in a Time cover story. Also: Google (GOOG) and Oracle (ORCL) return to court, Tesla returns to declines on Wall Street.
The Lead: Apple faces more Icahn agitation, China Mobile anticipation
Carl Icahn knows how much he wants Apple to pay him and other investors, and he knows how to get his point across.
The activist investor scored the cover of Time Magazine for a story in which he presents a formal demand for an additional $50 billion in stock repurchases from the Cupertino company, and he took to Twitter to share the information just as Time was blasting an email to journalists worldwide to announce the story.
"Gave $AAPL notice we'll be making a precatory proposal to call for vote to increase buyback program, although not at $150 billion level," Icahn tweeted Wednesday.
In layman's terms, Icahn officially called for a vote of Apple shareholders at Apple's next annual meeting on a proposal that would have Apple nearly double its $60 billion share-repurchase plan announced earlier this year as part of a $100 billion return of funds to investors.
"Apple is not a bank," Icahn told Time, referring to the $147 billion in cash sitting on the company's books.
Apple gave Time a statement that confirmed the receipt of his precatory proposal -- which would be nonbinding even if shareholders approve it -- and noted Apple has already set in place the largest share-repurchase authorization in history.
"As part of our regular review process, we are once again actively seeking our shareholders' input on our program, and as we said in October, the management team and our board are engaged in an ongoing discussion about it which is thoughtful and deliberate," Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said.
Icahn has publicly harangued Apple for a greater return of cash to shareholders since first announcing an investment in the company in August; such a move would almost certainly raise Apple's share price because it would deplete the supply of available Apple shares while demand would conceivably stay steady. In October, after having dinner with CEO Tim Cook, Icahn sent Apple's top executive a letter requesting a $150 billion stock buyback, but he seems to have cut that plan down a bit for better odds of approval.
Apple's stock has moved into the black for 2013 recently after struggling for most of the year, with the highest prices of 2013 arriving on Black Friday, only to be topped two sessions later. Apple hit a new intraday high for 2013 of $569.19 on Wednesday but closed with a loss of 0.2 percent at $565.
One reason for Apple's recent Wall Street success is continuing hope for a deal with the world's largest wireless carrier, China Mobile. More good news on that front arrived Wednesday, with China Mobile receiving a license to offer 4G service, one of the final impediments to offering Apple's iPhone to its customers. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster predicted Wednesday that Apple would sell about 17 million additional iPhones in 2014 with a China Mobile deal, which would add about 5 percent to its annual revenue total.
SV150 market report: Google, Oracle return to court, Tesla heads back down
For a second consecutive day, the SV150 easily outpaced Wall Street's larger indexes, as Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Yahoo (YHOO) and social media firms gained while Silicon Valley's biggest courtroom battle -- until Apple took on Samsung -- made its way to an appellate court.
Hewlett-Packard hit 52-week highs Wednesday, gaining 2.3 percent to $28.13 despite Tuesday's IDC report detailing bad times for personal computer manufacturers, as Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty called it one of the two "lowest-risk plays on a continued cyclical recovery and stabilization in PCs." After revealing plans for 3D printing earlier this year in a speech by CEO Meg Whitman, HP Labs showed Wired its early foray into the technology and discussed its view that the technology will likely be aimed at companies that produce consumers' designs instead of directly at consumers. Yahoo gained 4.3 percent to $38.13, its first close higher than $38 since 2006, after confirming the acquisition of mobile video-editing app Ptch, which is similar to the acquisition of Qwiki earlier this year and the second acquisition of the week for Yahoo, after Skyphrase. Social-networking stocks were also hot: Twitter jumped 5.6 percent to $43.69, Facebook gained 4 percent to $48.62, LinkedIn increased 1.2 percent to $219.02, and Yelp moved 4.7 percent higher to $63.07.
Tesla Motors (TSLA) couldn't provide an encore to Tuesday's big gains, dropping 4 percent to $138.95 despite the defeat of an Ohio proposal that would have blocked its sales approach in that state, part of an organized effort against Tesla by car dealers. eBay's (EBAY) post-Black Friday winning streak ended, as the San Jose e-commerce giant dropped 1.6 percent to $51.09 after Evercore analyst Ken Sena cut his rating of the company, which is ramping up gift card offerings through its PayPal payments service. Netflix (NFLX) fell 1.8 percent to $356.27 as the Los Gatos video-on-demand company announced that its lauded original drama "House of Cards" will return for a second season on Valentines's Day.
The SV150 index of Silicon Valley's largest tech companies: Up 5.33, or 0.37 percent, to 1,444.33
The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Up 0.8, or 0.02 percent, to 4,038
The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Down 24.85, or 0.16 percent, to 15,889.77
And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Down 2.34, or 0.13 percent, to 1,792.81
Check in weekday afternoons for the 60-Second Business Break, a summary of news from Mercury News staff writers, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and other wire services. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/jowens510.