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has so far failed to excite the cost-conscious consumers it targets.
In the options market, traders were bracing for a move of about 5-6% in Apple's shares after its announcement. The sentiment was more bullish than bearish with call volume outpacing put contracts: Of 1.87 million contracts of open interest in options, 1.17 million were calls and 706,000 puts.
Apple's stock is up 21.7% over the past 12 months, just ahead of a 20.4% rise in the Standard & Poor's 500. Still, that has disappointed some investors after the shares increased fivefold in the last five years.
In a lengthy letter to shareholders on Thursday, Icahn urged shareholders to approve his proposal for a new $50-billion share buyback, arguing the company did not need so much cash on hand and that the stock was undervalued relative to the S&P 500.
Apple, which launched a massive share buyback last year, has urged shareholders to reject Icahn's proposal, arguing that it needs sufficient reserves to tackle increasing competition in a fast-evolving mobile industry.
More fundamentally, investors worry about Apple's performance in China, the world's largest cellular market. Analysts say the high-end iPhone is struggling to make headway against cheaper local offerings from Huawei and Xiaomi, while Samsung continues to dominate the market.
Apple has been under siege from a growing coterie of Asian phonemakers over the past year. It ended the third quarter as the No. 2 player with 12.1% of the global smartphone market, but down from 14.3% a year ago and less than half of Samsung's 32.1% currently. Lenovo, LG Electronics and Huawei all made gains, each holding about a 5% market share at present, according to Gartner data.
The picture is drastically different in China, where Samsung commanded a 21% share in the third quarter of 2013, with Apple trailing in fifth place with 6%, according to research firm Canalys.
But some analysts say the addition of China Mobile's vast nationwide network to the iPhone's stable could drive sales of four to five million iPhones in the March quarter.
“Inventory build and magnitude of China Mobile iPhone sales are a big X-factor for the March quarter,” Sacconaghi wrote