Apple’s Fundamental Great Value May Soon Get a Gigantic PR Boost
Apple (AAPL) has become one of the least expensive stocks in the entire market based on a fundamental value. Subtracting out its $128 per-share cash value ($121.3 billion/939 million shares outstanding), its trailing P/E is a ridiculously-low 7.9. Even if you do not adjust for cash, the trailing P/E is 10.88 and forward P/E is 9.43 according to Yahoo Finance.
The company pays a 2.2% forward dividend rate and the pay-out ratio is only 12% so there is an excellent chance that this will increase in the future or some other cash-distribution method such as the preferred stock proposal advanced by hedge fund manager David Einhorn is instituted.
The only way that such a low valuation could be justified would be if the growth rate slowed dramatically. Surely, it will fall significantly from the nearly 50% growth numbers that it has sported for the last five years, but the culture of this company is to continually come up with new products which will appeal to its growing base of satisfied customers, and it has barely scratched the potential in China (where Tim Cook said would be their largest market). This year Apple will probably seal a deal with China Telecom (CHA), the largest mobile carrier by far in the world.
Here are the YOY growth rates over the past five years:
aapl graph YOY quarterly growth
Admittedly, the current growth rate is the absolute lowest that it has been for the past five years, but look what happened in November 2009 when it was at a similarly low level. The growth rate really took place from that point. Will history repeat itself? According to Zacks Investment Research, analysts expect the Apple’s growth rate in 2014 tooo be 15.30%.
When a company’s future growth rate is less than its cash-adjusted P/E, it should be considered to be a fundamental bargain. That is precisely where AAPL is right now.
There is also a potential technical indicator justification for buying the stock at this time:
AAPL 50 Day Moving Average
One of the smartest investing decisions you could have made over the past year was to buy AAPL when it rose above the 50-day moving average and sell it when it fell below that moving average. This strategy would have picked up the big upward move from late June to October and also picked up the huge drop since that time.
If you check out the slope of the most recent stock price move as well as the 50-day average, you can see that they are on a collision course to cross over one another in the next two weeks. This might be the perfect time to get in ahead of this important technical indicator before it actually kicks in. Even if you don’t believe in technical analysis, there are so many people out there who do believe in it that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy once it is triggered.
In addition to both fundamental and possible technical reasons the AAPL is undervalued at its current price, there is the possibility that a public relations coup of epic proportions might be on its way on this very day.
On December 6, 2012, Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook announced that his company would shift manufacturing of one computer line from Asia to the United States. “Next year we are going to bring some production to the U.S. on the Mac,” Cook told Bloomberg Businessweek. “We’ve been working on this for a long time, and we were getting closer to it. It will happen in 2013. We’re really proud of it. We could have quickly maybe done just assembly, but it’s broader because we wanted to do something more substantial.”
The announcement was generally discounted as a symbolic effort to improve its public image which has been tarnished in recent years by reports of labor issues at Foxconn, its major contract supplier in China.
At the time of his announcement, AAPL was trading at $534, or about 10% lower than it closed today Monday, February 11th ($480). Over this same time period, the S&P 500 has gained almost 7%. Clearly, a more positive public image doesn’t necessarily result in a higher stock price, at least all by itself.
Analysts expected the amount of production that would be shifted to the United States to be negligible. Cook stated that they would invest $100 million to ramp up to make Mac computers, a pittance compared to the $121 billion in cash they are sitting on (and which has been the source of multiple suggestions lately on how they can best use this stash).
But symbolically, if a huge company like Apple shifts some manufacturing jobs to the U.S., joining recent moves by Caterpillar (CAT) and General Electric (GE), and other large companies (according to a Boston Consulting Group survey ), maybe more others might join the party and collectively reduce our unemployment rate that unhappily hovers around 8% these days.
There seems to be a nationwide movement to “buy local.” While this usually refers to locally-grown fruits, vegetables and meat products, “buy American” has been a long-standing slogan in our country. Maybe Apple will figure out that the extra cost of hiring U.S. workers for some manufacturing jobs adds to the bottom line because certain segments of the population will reward them by buying their products rather than Samsung’s.
It seemed unusual to me that an oft-repeated tag line scrolling across the TV screen on CNN today was that Apple’s Tim Cook would be at President Obama’s State of the Union Address. There undoubtedly will be dozens of other more important “real” celebrities in attendance, but why did Tim Cook get all the publicity?
Could it be possible that Mr. Obama will publicly recognize Tim Cook’s promise to return manufacturing jobs to the United States, and give some specifics of how many people might be employed or where the new factories might be located? Maybe Mr. Cook will be appointed to head up a commission of other large domestic company CEOs to encourage other companies to join the movement to bring back jobs to America.
Maybe the President will announce that Apple will be making the iWatch using Corning Glass in New York rather than Zhengzhou, or some other positive news which might reflect well on Apple as well as our nation.
Will such publicity goose up the stock? It didn’t when the initial announcement was made in December. But maybe this time it will be different. An interview on Bloomberg Businessweek is a fairly commonplace event, but a company being recognized in a State of the Union Address is something serious and potentially beneficial to a company whose luster has faded as the stock has plummeted from a high over $700 a few months ago to $480 today.