Will Apple slide below Exxon in market value?

Citigroup has downgraded it to neutral and cut its target price by $100. And that's the least of the tech giant's problems.

By 247 Wall St. Dec 17, 2012 1:06PM

The Apple Inc. logo is displayed on the back of the new MacBook Pro David Paul Morris, Bloomberg via Getty ImagesBy Douglas A. McIntyre

 

Apple (AAPL) shareholders were thrilled when its market value moved above that of Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), Google (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT) and then the world's largest oil company -- Exxon Mobil (XOM). 


Apple became the market cap leader among the world's public companies. However, the consumer electronics company's shares have fallen so quickly that Exxon may soon take the top spot again.

 

Exxon's market value is $401 billion, against Apple's $480 billion. Over the past three months, Apple's stock has fallen 25%, compared to a drop of 5% for Exxon. Apple's collapse could cause the two to trade places, which would be humiliating. Exxon may take first place by barely standing still.

 

Wall St. has begun to speculate that Apple's shares could breach $500 on the way down -- a level at which it has not traded since last February. Citi recently cut Apple to "neutral" and cut its price target to $575 from $675.  It would not take much to cause the shaky share price to dive further.

 

First among the worries about how Apple's earnings will fare is its rivalry with Google Android-powered devices. Although Android does not make money for Google, an army of smartphone firms have adopted it. According to research firm Gartner, Android's worldwide share of the smartphone market was 74% in the third quarter, up from 53% in the same period a year ago. The market share of Apple's iOS fell from 15% to 14% over the same period. And Google has built its own personal computer based on the operating system.

 

Foremost among the smartphone companies that have embraced Android is Samsung, which has passed Nokia (NOK) as the world leader in cellphone share. Its Galaxy S III smartphone have been rated by experts as better than Apple's iPhone 5. Apple has not faced that sort of troubling comparison since it released the first iPhone.

 

Apple has much at stake in a series of intellectual property suits against Samsung in several countries. The most important may be in the U.S., where Samsung was found to have violated Apple patents and was fined more than $1 billion by a federal court. But that case has been appealed, and there is no guarantee Apple will hold its advantage.

 

Apple's market share also has been eroded in the tablet PC business. The competition has become more heated because of products from Samsung. But the biggest threat to the iPad, based on market share, is Amazon.com's (AMZN) Kindle, which has evolved from an e-reader into a tablet, and it is backed by Amazon's powerful marketing presence on the Internet.

 

Some analysts believe that a drop in Apple's share of the smartphone and tablet businesses is inevitable. Its presence in these markets has been so strong that competition eventually will erode its position, even if that erosion is modest. But the optimists about Apple's share price had forecast that there would be little erosion at all. That forecast has turned out to be faulty.


(Microsoft owns and publishes Top Stocks, an MSN Money site.)

 

More from 24/7 Wall St.

0Comments

DATA PROVIDERS

Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.

STOCK SCOUTER

StockScouter rates stocks from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, using a system of advanced mathematics to determine a stock's expected risk and return. Ratings are displayed on a bell curve, meaning there will be fewer ratings of 1 and 10 and far more of 4 through 7.

116
116 rated 1
265
265 rated 2
429
429 rated 3
612
612 rated 4
499
499 rated 5
525
525 rated 6
701
701 rated 7
533
533 rated 8
337
337 rated 9
131
131 rated 10
12345678910

Top Picks

SYMBOLNAMERATING
UPLULTRA PETROLEUM Corp10
COPCONOCOPHILLIPS9
TAT&T Inc9
DVNDEVON ENERGY CORPORATION9
EOGEOG RESOURCES Inc9
More

VIDEO ON MSN MONEY

ABOUT

Top Stocks provides analysis about the most noteworthy stocks in the market each day, combining some of the best content from around the MSN Money site and the rest of the Web.

Contributors include professional investors and journalists affiliated with MSN Money.

Follow us on Twitter @topstocksmsn.