30 September, 2008

Apple in the Bargain Bin around $100

Tumultuous turmoil in the marketplace has left Traders and Investors on a selling spree as the US Financial crisis spreads through the credit markets and begins to lurk in the nooks and crannies of Main Street economy. While several incredibly leveraged and debt-ridden names deserve to be under the knife of their own implosion other great companies are just being swept into the sandstorm of negativity. Apple (AAPL) is surely one of those names!

Granted, Apple was and may still be a high P/E stock and as markets contracted of late, Apple's multiples have moved in kind, despite the company's growth outlook. The supplementing downgrades near this latest bottom offer a hope that this is a bargain basement price for this still solid growth company. When analysts start piling up the downgrades like Morgan Stanley and RBC did against Apple yesterday, during the Market's worse point loss, its time to reconsider that this may in fact be a bottom.

Coupled with the White House push to get some sort of Bailout Plan passed through Congress and you've got a recipe for a potentially big turnaround. Let's take a quick look at the Apple "downgrades". The RBC analyst cut his Mac sales estimate from 3.0Million to 2.9Million units, which all things considered is still a stunning sales pace when a year ago the company shipped just over 2.1Million Macs. iPhones sales estimates, well RBC actually rose those from 5Million units to 6Million units in the quarter.

As the 3rd iPhone rollout begins, which in early October should include Russia there is very little, if any, doubt now that Apple will blow past its own goal of selling 10Million iPhones this year. It's also poised to be a 10Million Mac year, which of course will be a record for the company, not to mention the 10+Million iPods shipped every 3 months. With Apple holding an iPod event earlier this month to announce new Nanos and reduced pricing on iPod Touches the company wants to place itself within a comfortable range of consumer spending, even as that spending starts to deteriorate.

While its true a new computer favourite with consumers is the "net-book", the small screened sub $500 machines for the budget-conscious shopper on the go, but even as Apple gets more mainstream with its computer business it is still a premium niche design brand. Tiffany's doesn't suddenly start selling cubics does it? Brand recognition and popularity especially among the youth market is critical to businesses in a consumer downturn and Apple has it. All signs earlier in the quarter have pointed to a record back-to-school shopping season despite economic perils. Not to mention Apple's own claims of margin-cutting new devices coming soon, which likely include either lower priced entry laptops or the ever-rumored Tablet device.

The iPhone is the next big growth phase for Apple, as iPod users upgrade/replace existing iPods with new models or iPhones, the company will continue to see the incremental revenue from not only those device sales, their booming iTunes online music business, but now also from the sharply growing Application download business. The latter of which, providing $30Million in revenue on its first 100Million downloads in the first 2 months of operation.

As Apple's quarter comes to a close, earnings are right around the corner and as always analysts will be looking towards guidance more than anything. This is where Apple's biggest problem may be. Given the current economic climate Apple's typical lowered and comfortable guidance may hurt more now than it would help later. The important thing to remember with Apple's upcoming results is that its future is sound, with 10s of Billions in cash and deferred revenue from iPhone sales the company isn't looking at any debt, has the flexibility to still innovate and negotiate tough economic climates, especially as it captures the press in another "Steve-note" later in October to unveil new lowered price MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops (as the rumors go).

But consider this. After this quarter, cumulative iPhone sales will likely be close to 11Million units, and at $400/device on average (pre-subsidy) that's close to $4.5Billion in revenue of which an 8th will show up on this quarter's books, $550Million. When you consider a year ago Apple had total sales of $6.2Billion for the quarter, the iPhone piece is becoming ever more significant. And when Investors think about the additional $4Billion that will be padding Apple's cash horde in the upcoming quarters it will certainly make them breathe easy even in the most crimped economic spending scenarios.

Apple's cheap, it's a steal, and there are very real catalysts in the next few months (Earnings, Mac Event, Christmas Sales, MacWorld, Christmas earnings). This is a stock that could climb 50-60% from here in the next half-year.

Disclosure: Author is long AAPL

No comments: