Like it or not, Apple will be Apple
It is going to continue to operate as it always has, and won't be influenced by expectations.
If there has been any downside to the success of Apple (AAPL), it is that no matter how much growth the company produces, investors insist on wanting more. This is regardless of how absurd these expectations may be. Nonetheless, as a faithful stock, Apple has obliged.
Over the past decade, the company's growth has been nothing short of extraordinary -- particularly as it faced threats from Google (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT) and Amazon (AMZN), hated rivals that want nothing more than to put the company out of business.
However, on the heels of Apple's fourth-quarter earnings report and ensuing guidance, many bears have taken to the streets to proclaim victory.
It seems Apple's results have suddenly created an "aura of uncertainly" regarding the company's future. But I ask, really? I think it is time for investors to take a more realistic view of where the company is and how it chooses to operate.
Apple cares very little about your expectations. Instead, it does what it does -- operating on the premise that nothing is more important than achieving its goals.
During the quarter, Apple reported net income of $8.2 billion, or $8.67 per share, on revenue of $35.97 billion. Although the company beat revenue expectations, Apple fell slightly short of EPS estimates of $8.85 per share. Sales surged 27% year-over-year, while profits grew by 23% during that span.
The company sold 27 million iPhones - representing an annual unit growth of 58%. Likewise, iPads also performed well, with unit growth reaching 26% as Apple sold 14 million of its market leading tablet.
Gross margins arrived at 40% -- declining slightly by less than half of a percent. This was the result of increased costs, which climbed year-over-year by 27%.
That the company still managed to generate over $41 billion in net income for the full fiscal year is nothing short of remarkable, particularly in what has been a tough macro environment. Equally impressive was its operating cash flow, which arrived at over $50 billion.
But it was the company's guidance that curbed that would have otherwise been a good quarter.
Apple is known to under-promise and over-deliver. For the first quarter of fiscal 2013, the company expects to earn $11.75 per share on revenue of $52 billion. Also disappointing analysts was Apple's margin projections, which arrived much lower than expected. This comes after margins already slipped by 20 basis points in the most recent quarter.
But I can't fault the company for running its business as it sees fit and not succumbing to stock price pressures or Wall Street's expectations.
Overall, this was a good quarter for Apple, which, despite its miss, continued to demonstrate excellent growth.
It's worth noting Google, Microsoft and Amazon all failed to meet earnings expectations as well. But none have become victims of their own success to the extent Apple has.
Consequently, "cannibalization" continues to be the buzzword whenever Apple has fallen short of expectations. This has become the most predictable pattern in the entire market. But it goes with the territory of Apple having become the top consumer brand in the world.
This time it was the iPhone 5 and the highly anticipated release of the iPad mini. It seems if some investors had their way, the company would slow down its refresh cycle and price its product releases more "appropriately."
Even more remarkable is the idea that some investors would prefer the company suppress its innovative prowess and stop releasing new products altogether. In other words, execute and make decisions to suit the stock.
However, these same investors forget that Apple's stock price has followed the fundamentals of its underlying business. This is the same business that current management has been executing to perfection -- propelling Apple to the most valuable company in the world. There has been no other company that has come close to the level of execution of Apple, which has averaged 35% earnings and revenue growth over the past decade.
During that span not only has the company's sales risen from $6 billion in 2002 to close to $130 billion, but profits have grown from $65 million to $41 billion, as of this most recent quarter. Now, somehow, the company's management deserves to be second guessed.
Apple is going to be Apple. It is going to continue to operate in a manner that suits its business and won't be influenced by noise and outside factors.
It is this exact mindset that has helped the company amass a cash pile of over $120 billion. With the holiday season approaching and the release of the iPad mini, iPad 4 and the iPhone 5, investors should expect a phenomenal start to the first quarter of 2013.
In the meantime, the market should appreciate that Apple's recent quarter was an "earnings miss" that really wasn't. Instead, analysts missed on their projections. Apple was just being Apple.
At the time of publication, the author was long AAPL and held no position in any of the other stocks mentioned.
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