Inside Wall Street: Stay bullish on Apple
Apart from being a unique growth and value stock, Apple may be the next big dividend play.
Concern that shares of Apple (AAPL) will continue to slip and slide from current price levels is quite premature and fundamentally flawed. True, the untimely passing of Steve Jobs in early October has instilled great angst among investors. But not a few close watchers see Apple entering a new chapter of further growth, opportunities and shareholder charm.
Apple's stock has been burdened by a so-called a "Steve Jobs discount" after he was revealed to be gravely ill with cancer. From its 52-week high of $426.70 a share, the stock has tumbled and closed at $374 a share on Nov. 18. But that decline is considered a "gift" by the Apple bulls, who believe the stock is one of the cheapest in technology, if not the cheapest -- trading at about 10 times estimated 2012 earnings. Some Wall Street analysts predict the stock will climb to as high as $550 a share in a year.
"Apple, which remains the biggest holding in our portfolio, is bound to go much higher judging from what we expect Jobs' successor, Tim Cook, will do to expand its reach in foreign markets, particularly in China, and to take advantage of new product opportunities, including the iApple TV," says Keith C. Goddard, president and CEO of Capital Advisors and co-manager of the Capital Advisors Growth Fund. And Apple under Tim Cook will also be more focused on enhancing shareholder value, adds Goddard. In particular, he expects Apple to start paying a dividend next year.
Goddard notes that with Apple's rich cash hoard of $82 billion, which translates to about $81 a share, the company should be able initiate a dividend and provide a payout yield of at least 2%. He believes Cook would be disposed to using the company's mounting cash and strong free cash flow to reward Apple's shareholders. According to Goddard's analysis, Apple could well afford to take out 10% to 15% of its earnings for dividend payments.
With Apple being the big operator in a large pond, he says, the company is destined to conquer more untapped markets. In China, as an example, Apple has yet to strike a deal with China Mobile, the giant Chinese telecom, which has about 600 million subscribers. Its subscriber count is way above that of the major U.S. carriers, including AT&T (T), whose subscribers total about 95 million, Verizon (VZ)with 89 million, and Sprint (S) with just 34 million, notes Goddard.
With the wobbly economic recovery and high unemployment levels, there is reason for worry about consumer spending. But the time to worry about Apple is when its innovative and sleek products start to lose market share, says Goddard. So far, he doesn't see that happening, especially with Apple's iPad, iPhone and Mac computers.
Nonetheless, some concern over a slowing in consumer demand for the iPad and the iPhone has contributed to the dip in Apple's stock price. Some analysts concede that there may be justifiable reason for such concerns, but they are not sufficient enough to seriously worry about Apple.
Analyst Ben Reitzes of Barclays Capital Partners argues that the negative view has been overblown because Apple still has significant momentum, particularly during the holidays. And he, too, sees the China market as the next growth area for Apple.
Reitzes doesn't see demand for the iPhone or the iPad as worrisome, and he doubts that it will turn into a long-term problem. iPad, for one, still stands out as an industry standard in terms of software integration, says Reitzes, who remains a bull and rates Apple as "overweight" with 12-month target of $555 a share.
Analyst Scott Kessler of Standard & Poor's downgraded Apple on Nov.10 from a "strong buy" to a "buy." Nonetheless, he has maintained his 12-month price target of $500 a share, based in part on his forecast that Apple will post sales growth of 31% in 2012 (ending Sept. 30th), reflecting gains in the shipments of iPads, iPhones, and MacBooks.
"Despite somewhat soft demand for computers and consumer electronics and competitive threats, we think iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks will largely gain or retain market share over next year or so," says Kessler. He adds that higher volumes and a focus on common components should lead to better profitability. Apple's handle on earnings isn't in doubt. Kessler believes Apple will continue to lead most of the marjor and large-cap technology companies in earnings growth.
"We believe Apple shares have appeal," says Kessler, based on the company's large cash position, strong free cash flow generation, and relatively high return on equity. Apple is quite impressive in that it offers a "unique and attractive combination of growth and value," he asserts. Kessler also sees Apple as becoming more shareholder friendly under Tim Cook.
Indeed, Apple may not only be a powerful growth and value stock. It could become the next big dividend play on the horizon.
Gene Marcial wrote the Inside Wall Street column for Business Week for 28 years and now writes the column for MSN.com. He also wrote Seven Commandments of Stock Investing, published by FT Press.
On a much more important subject, we are "pensioning" ourselves to destruction. A person is supposed to save a little for old age, if pensions are not outlawed (or at least controlled with a reasonable cap), the country is going down. Wake up!
Why not redo SS and that way everone will draw an amount equal to what they paid in?????
As they say, the Bull always goes down with the ship, - - - er, - --, was that the Captain???
The way I see it, there is a lot of compatition out there, new devices popping up every month.
Aw well it's just money, what the heck.
Apple is doomed. They have abandoned their hard core tech savvy die-hard customers for fickle middle of the road consumers that follow any new fad that comes along. They will now become mediocre, and their product offerings are the proof. For example:
Final Cut Pro-X, rumors of killing off the Mac Pro line, the "new" iPhone 4S, etc...
These any many more killer ideas to come. Good job Tim Cook!
(Adobe, Google, even Microsoft will eat your lunch.)
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The company plans to close stores and lay off employees, and says it needs to make some deeper changes.
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