Apple's stock rebounded to a 52-week high of $575.14 US earlier today, part of its steady 10 per cent climb since late June.

The company’s stock buyback plan has made it attractive to investors, but so did a misleading Wall Street Journal article this morning that says it has signed a deal to offer iPhones through China Mobile, China’s biggest mobile operater.

China Mobile denied that a deal had been clinched in a comment to Reuters, but said the two companies are in talks.

It still appears likely a deal will be signed, giving Apple access to China Mobile’s 700 million Chinese subscribers.

Samsung is currently the largest smartphone vendor in China, with a 21 per cent market share in the third quarter, compared with Apple's six per cent, according to research firm Canalys.

China remains a very attractive market to handset makers as its smartphone penetration is low by world standards and China Mobile is an attractive partner, because its subscribers are quite affluent.

Sales in recovery

Apple’s stock hit a high of $700 US a share last September, but slid to under $400 by mid-April after the company failed to introduce significant advances in the iPhone.

But investors have been happier with the company since June, as sales recovered and were bullish on Black Friday sales.

For the past two months, activist investor Carl Icahn has led the charge to demand Apple buy back company stock at a faster rate. It announced a $60 billion US buyback scheme this spring and buybacks have been rolling out ever since.

On Wednesday, Icahn said on Twitter that he has submitted a proposal to Apple that would enable the company's shareholders to vote on his plan for more stock buybacks.

 The attempt to gather more allies for Icahn's cause could set up a showdown between the company and the acerbic billionaire, who holds 4.7 million shares or just under one per cent of the company.

Icahn campaign

However, Icahn has expressed admiration for Apple chief executive Tim Cook and believes the stock is undervalued.

"Tim Cook is doing a good job with the business," Icahn told Time. "I think he's good whether he does what I want or not." The comments were made as part of a Time story that hails Icahn as "the most important investor in America" on the magazine's cover.

There could be more trouble on the horizon for Apple next year, as consumers shift toward larger phones at the expense of small tablets.

IDC issued a report this week that  Microsoft Corp. will win market share at Apple Inc.'s  expense in the tablet market.

With files from the Associated Press