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Is Apple A Double From Here?

Tim Cook

I talked yesterday about the Fed. As I said, I think we'll find that the Fed will shift gears again to stay behind the curve on inflation to let the economy run a little hot. They met today and it was a non-event. They said nothing to build momentum on their rate hike from December.

The news of the day has been Apple’s earnings. People over the past couple of years have been calling for the decline in Apple. They've said it's topped. They said Apple can't innovate in the post-Steve Jobs era. The iPhone was magic but reproducing magic isn’t easy. Once you put a computer in everyone's pocket, there's not much more they can do to it. These are all of the quips about Apple's peak. They may be right. But Apple's peak, at least as a stock, is greatly exaggerated.

The company reported a huge positive surprise on earnings yesterday after the close. The stock was up 6% on the day. But even before that, I suspect it had become a much loved stock in the past two months in the "smart money" investor community.

We should see in the coming weeks, as big investors disclose their positioning for the end of the fourth quarter, that Apple has likely become a much loved stock again. Warren Buffett, an investor that has made his fortune buying when others are selling, built a big stake in Apple at the lows of the year last year. And it's a perfect Buffett stock.

It’s incredibly cheap compared to the market.

The stock still trades at 15x earnings. Much cheaper than the market. Apple trades at 13x next year’s projected earnings. The S&P 500 trades at 16.5x. What about Apple's monster cash position? Apple has even more cash now--a record $246 billion. If we excluded the cash from the valuation, Apple’s market cap goes down from $675 billion to $429 billion. That would equate to Apple trading at closer to 9x earnings. Though not an “apples to apples” that valuation would group Apple with the likes of these S&P 500 components that trade around 9 times earnings, like: Dow Chemical, Prudential Financial, Bed Bath & Beyond, a Norwegian chemical company (LBY), and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. It's safe to say no one is debating whether or not Hewlett Packard is at the pinnacle of its business. Yet, if we strip out the cash in Apple, AAPL shares are trading closer to an HPE valuation.

Add to that, Apple now has a fresh catalyst coming in, Trump policies. The new President Trump is incentivizing Apple (and others) to bring offshore cash hoards back home with a flat 10% tax. And Apple makes money--a lot of it. A cut in the corporate tax rate will be a boon for earnings. Two years ago, Carl Icahn argued that Apple should use (a lot more of) their cash to buyback shares--and, with that, valued the stock at double its current levels.

Article by Bryan Rich-Forbes

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