Tag Archives: AAPL

An Apple Appetite

Recently I have been trying to dig deeper into Apple (AAPL) to get a handle on what the near term may mean for this amazing company and thereby get an insight into APPL’s valuation. I have struggled with AAPL’s valuation in previous posts (here and here) but after each of my musings the share price continued on its upward trajectory.

Irrespective of whether iPhone 8 and iPhone X unit sales disappoint (due to unit shortages or otherwise) over the coming months, it seems highly probable to me that Apple will be successful in segmenting their iPhone market further over the medium term and break through the $1000 per iPhone spend in a significant way. Their R&D spend of over $10 billion (including nearly $2 billion of share options) goes a long way to ensuring customers will pay for their innovations.

The reason why AAPL are following the current strategy is a hot topic of debate with analysts. Some see the new iPhone models feed into a super-cycle of updates and continued installed base growth, pointing to the approximate 40% of the current iPhone installed base older than 2 years. Other analysts believe that the smartphone market has plateaued (see graph from Mary Meeker below) and Apple is embarking upon a segmentation strategy to harvest their loyal customer base.

click to enlarge

The estimates for the iPhone installed base vary significantly across analysts from 550 to 750 million units and some, such as Deutsche Bank and BoA ML further, break the base down to core and secondary non-core users. Although most of the estimates are likely out of date as they were published prior to the iPhone 8 and iPhone X announcements, the graphic below illustrates the differing views.

click to enlarge

It is likely no surprise that I am in the plateau camp on future growth of the installed base. I have assumed an installed base of 640 million as at end September 2017 and 40% or approximately 250 million of these are potential iPhones upgraders with phones older than 2 years. I have further assumed that a proportion of the installed base, I selected 10%, are secondary non-core users with a very low propensity to upgrade. That leaves an approximate 190 million potential upgrades for the FY2018. Despite the lack of growth of the market, I assumed another 10 million sales from new purchasers giving a target iPhone unit sales of 200 million for FY2018. 200 million of annual unit iPhone sales is well below most analyst estimates which average around 240 -260 million for FY2018.

Of the 200 million iPhone unit sales for FY2018, I have further assumed 45 million are iPhone X and just over half are iPhone 8, with the remainder being iPhone 7 and older models. For Q42017, I am assuming only 9 million iPhone 8 sales with 35 million of iPhone 7 and older models (influenced by the amount of inventory clearance sales I have seen in retail stores). The graph below shows my installed base assumptions, with my estimates for sales of the iPhone 8, iPhone X and it successor models over FY 2018 and FY2019 (I am assuming 200 million units is the new normal for annual iPhone sales through to FY2020).

click to enlargeAAPL iPhone Installed Base 2014 to 2019

The resulting average selling price (ASP) for FY2018 is $785 with annual FY2018 revenues from iPhone of $157 billion. For FY2019, I have assumed a ASP of $860 with annual FY2019 iPhone revenues of $172 billion. The graph below shows my revenue assumptions over FY 2018 and FY2019 across all products.

click to enlarge

The EPS estimates coming out of my model, using the assumptions above (amongst others), for FY2018, FY2019 and FY2020 are $10.17, $11.45 and $11.81 respectively (I agree with the estimates of $9.00 for FY2017). That represents 13% EPS growth for 2018 and 2019, slowing to 3% in 2020. At the current share price of $160, the forward PE (excluding cash) would look as per the graph below.

click to enlarge

My analysis suggests that AAPL either deserves a higher multiple than the recent past to justify its current value or it will have to convince enough new iPhone users to buy its new products to take market share from its competitors and sell more than 200 million iPhone annually for the foreseeable future.

Given the potential headwinds for iPhone 8 and iPhone X over the short term, the current price may be difficult to defend near term as the market gets used to lower iPhone sales at higher prices (and hopefully margins too). Then again, going negative on AAPL hasn’t proven fruitful in the past and the analysts are currently hyping up AAPL’s prospects with price targets heading solidly towards $200.

Given my previous history of questioning AAPL’s valuation, maybe indecision is the best answer for the time being……

Tech Treks

One lesson from the internet bubble is that big is beautiful in tech. But longevity is another lesson, think Yahoo! So one must be fickle in ones tech affections and one must never ever pay too much. After much patience, I was lucky enough to eventually get into Apple in early 2013 when sentiment was particularly sore. I didn’t manage to heed my own advice on getting into Google at a reasonable price in December 2014 when it was trading around 60% of its current value, as per this post on internet relative valuations (more on that post later). Since 2013, I have watched sentiment gyrate on AAPL as the standard graph I use below illustrates (most recent AAPL posts are here and here). I used the current $135 price high as the most recent data point for the Q12017 valuation.

click to enlargeaapl-forward-12-month-pe-ratios-q1-2017

Investors and analysts seem giddy these days about the impact of Trump tax changes and the iPhone 10 year anniversary on AAPL and have been pointing to Berkshire’s position increase in AAPL as confirmation bias of more upside. I, on the other hand, have been taking some of AAPL off the table recently on valuation concerns and will likely again be a buyer when the inevitable worries return along the “one trick iPhone pony” lines. God bless gyrating sentiment! Even Lex in the FT was saying today that the current TTM PE ex net cash of 13 is reasonable (eh, a TTM PE ex net cash of 7 a year ago was more reasonable)! AAPL still has be a core holding in anybody’s portfolio but prudent risk management requires trimming at this price in my opinion.

In my search for new ideas whilst I await some divine sense to emerge from the Trump & Brexit fog, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the post referred above on internet valuations. First off, I took the graph showing forward PEs to projected EPS growth using analyst estimates from December 2014 and inserted the actual change in share price from then to now. Two notable exceptions, at the extremities, from the graph below are Amazon and Twitter with share price changes of 173% and -56% respectively.

click to enlargeinternet-multiples-dec14-as-at-feb17

Although every company is different and has its own dynamics, my simplistic take from the graph below is that high PE stocks (e.g. > 40) with high EPS projections (e.g. > 35%) can easily run aground if the initial high growth phase hits harsh reality. The sweet spot is decent PEs with EPS growth in the 15% to 35% range (again assuming one can get comfortable that the EPS growth projections are real) indicative of the larger established firms still on the growth track (but who have successfully navigated the initial growth phase) .

A similar screen based upon today’s values and analyst estimates out to 2018 is presented below. This screen is not directly comparable with the December 2014 one as it goes out two years rather than one.

click to enlargeinternet-multiples-feb2017

Based upon this graph, Google and Netease again look worthy of investigation with similar profiles to two years ago. Netease has the attraction of a strong growth track record with the obvious Chinese political risk to get over. Expedia looks intriguing given the strong growth projected off a depressed 2016 EPS figure. Ebay and Priceline may also be worth a look purely on valuation although I have a general aversion to retail type stocks so I doubt I’ll bother look too deeply. All of the data used for these graphs is based upon analyst estimates which also need to be validated.

Valuations currently are juicy, generally too juicy for me, so this exercise is simply one to determine who to investigate further for inclusion on a watch-list. Time permitting!

Apple Average

It’s always strange when you have a relief rally in a stock (in after hours at least) because the actual results are not as bad as expected. So it seems to be with AAPL’s Q3 results. iPhone sales were not as bad as expected (albeit the lowest unit iPhone sales in 7 quarters at just above 40 million units) and the current quarter revenue guidance was above expectations. The average revenue per phone was below $600 for the first time in 2 years due to the the latest models with promises of improvements from management in future quarters. When the dust settles on the Q3 results though it could be time to finally reassess AAPL’s future trajectory.

The graph below shows the latest results by product which illustrate just how poor a quarter this was relative to historical trends, with services being the sole bright spot.

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AAPL Revenue by product Q32016

The split by revenue by region again illustrates the challenges AAPL is having in China. It also shows the lackluster response to Apple’s current products in the US.

click to enlargeAAPL Revenue by region Q32016

On valuation, AAPL still looks reasonable on a forward PE excluding cash basis (using analysts estimates for the next 4 quarters), as per the graph below.

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AAPL Forward 12 Month PE Ratio Q32016

The bulls are hyping up the iPhone 7 cycle as a source of future growth which is now the tired but only realistic growth thesis for AAPL. In the medium term however AAPL looks range bound around $100.

Apple below $100

In a market like this one, it’s impossible to tell what is going to happen next. The smell of fear has been in the air with greed cowered by uncertainty. Greed may push back soon with earnings, and particularly guidance, dictating the short term path whilst oil and China, amongst other macro factors, will continue to dominate the overall direction.

Overall I remain cautious on equities with a downward bias. I am sticking to my conviction stocks whilst keeping cash on the sidelines until I find a blatant bargain or two. Notwithstanding that stance, it’s always good to look at your positions and see if some risk management re-weighting is called for. And that’s the reason for a quick look over Apple before its earnings next Tuesday.

Apple is in a hapless position currently and likely has to blow away the December quarter estimates (on the number of iPhones sold, the average price, and the gross margin received) PLUS give a strong March quarter guidance to move up in a meaningful way. Given that a repeat of the outstanding results of last December’s quarter (see post here) compared to current expectations is improbable, I would suggest Apple could trade around or below $100 for a while yet. Analysts, whilst screaming about its valuation, have become increasing negative on the December quarter and guidance for their Q2 quarter. Apple may struggle to come in much above the top end of its guidance of 77.5 million iPhones (it has come in above guidance for 5 consecutive quarters albeit at a steadily reducing level above the top estimate).

The geographic split of revenue, as per the graph below, will also be closely watched to see if China’s economy is impacting Asian growth.

click to enlargeAAPL Revenue by region Q42015

Despite its best efforts, Apple remains primarily a phone company with last year’s iPhone revenues making up two-thirds of the total, as per the graph below (with my estimates for Q1).

click to enlargeAAPL Revenue by product Q42015

I played with some estimates to stress the view on an AAPL valuation below $100. Taking a jaundice view of adjusting average analyst non-GAAP estimates for 2016 and 2017 plus some pessimistic estimates of my own on 2016 and 2017 (with iPhone slowing to sales of 220 million and 200 million compared to around 230 million for 2015), I estimated the forward PEs, excluding net cash (currently around $150 billion), as per the graph below (based upon diluted GAAP EPS, not the adjusted EPS analysts love) using tonight’s close of $96.30. The multiples are quarterly point estimates using the share price one month after the quarter’s end.

click to enlargeAAPL Forward 12 Month PE Ratios Q4 2015

The graph above clearly shows the swings in sentiment on Apple over recent years as the market grapples with the future demand for the iPhone after each upgrade cycle. Tuesday will indicate whether the current concerns about iPhone sales and margins peaking are justified. Other concerns, such as a possible $8 billion tax bill from the EU, pale in comparison to those iPhone concerns. Notwithstanding these real concerns, forward multiples of below 8 look too low to me given Apple’s operating record (unless you buy into the Apple could be the next Nokia thesis which I don’t).

By way of a comparison, my estimate for a similar graph for Google is below (again using diluted GAAP EPS). Google will be another stock where earnings for Q4 will be very interesting as they split out their figures in line with the new Alphabet structure and (maybe) demonstrate again their new emphasis on cost control. Expectations look high based upon its current valuation.

click to enlargeGoogle Forward 12 Month PE Ratios Q4 2015

The comparison does reflect positively on Apple’s current valuation multiple and I’m happy to hold the AAPL position I have. A key outcome from the AAPL earnings call will be if Cook can provide sufficient catalysts for Apple’s value to trade significantly above $100.

As always, time will tell.

 

Follow-0n Evening 26th after earnings: Over the next few days and weeks, I’m sure the chatter about Apple and the iPhone will likely get over-bearing. The delicately posed share price of $99.99 before earnings will come under pressure. Q1 revenues were at the lower range of expectations and Q2 guidance at $50-$53 billion is weaker than expected. China revenues showed slowing growth. On the positive side, the average revenue per iPhone in Q1 was higher than expected and operating margins were strong. I revised down my estimates for AAPL’s 2016 and 2017 diluted EPS (to $9.15 and $8.60) and iPhone sales to 210 million and 190 million. The revised revenue splits and forward PE multiples (at share price of $99.99) are shown below. Thesis, as per post above, on AAPL’s valuation remains basically unchanged although the share price see some selling pressure in the short term.

click to enlargeAAPL Revenue by region Q12016

click to enlargeAAPL Revenue by product Q12016

click to enlargeAAPL Forward 12 Month PE Ratios Q1 2016.png

Is AAPL undervalued or overvalued at $400?

Following on from my initial post on Apple’s past, I have spent some time reading up on bull and bear views of its future. Oh my, there really is a massive amount of opinion out there! I knew that Apple was the most analysed stock in the world but I didn’t fully realise the extent of the chatter. The level of discussion was particularly strong last week as AAPL traded below $400. The focus now is the Q2 results due on Tuesday and the gross margins it will report and what can be assumed about Apple’s short term trajectory. There is a lot of noise about Apple at the moment but I am more interested with the medium term and the implied valuation from looking beyond the noise.

From past experience, I am very aware that when any stock falls from grace or reaches maturity, there is the danger that an attachment to the “glory days” can colour judgement on future prospects and capture sets in. As I am not an Apple user and have never directly owned Apple stock previously, I hope my perception is somewhat unbiased. The emotional capture trap that’s so dangerous in investing is something that I have fell for before and one I am very wary of.

I am in big believer in the wisdom of George Box’s quote that “all models are wrong, but some are useful”. In attempting to do a discounted cash flow analysis of a technology company like Apple, you have to make numerous assumptions, most of which will likely turn out to be way off the mark. The purpose here is not to predict the future but to get an idea of Apple’s valuation given the views prevalent today. Before detailing the assumptions for the three scenarios I selected, I have a number of observations:

1)      The importance of the smartphone market (or whatever smartphones evolves into) to Apple will likely not decrease if its financial success is to be maintained. No foreseen new markets, such as TV or watches alone, can ever, in my opinion, match the size and profitability of the iPhone. iPhones and iPads are likely to evolve & merge into a variety of portable products – mini iPads, low cost iPhones, portable iTVs – of differing sizes and capabilities. Whatever they turn out to be, they will remain critical to Apple. There is of course the possibility of an unforeseen killer product or market for Apple in the future. However, as they say, “hope is not a strategy”. Simply relying on Apple to innovate successfully on a scale similar to the iPhone in the future is, in my opinion, naive and not refective of the maturing nature of the market.

2)      It is increasingly likely that Apple will not be able to maintain the gross or net margins that it has achieved in recent years, both for its existing products and for new products. My projections assume varying levels of gross margin reduction and revenue per product reductions. Apple now has strong competitors and maintaining high margins and high prices in a competitive and increasing commoditised market (even at the high end) that is reaching maturity in the core developed jurisdictions is not, in my opinion, realistic.

3)      Initially I did think one scenario would reflect a Nokia/Motorola type implosion for Apple. However, just as my analysis concludes that Apple’s rapid revenue growth years are behind it, Apple’s uniqueness, its unflinching focus on quality, its core loyal customer base, and its ecosystem make a rapid decline equally unlikely. Its DNA, driven by its past, and its cash pile also make such a decline improbable in my view.

So, with the understanding that the analysis below is rough and ready, and has been done by somebody with a partial knowledge of the underlying subject, the following is presented here purely to stimulate consideration of Apple’s current valuation.

Scenario 1 – Apple Loses Its Cool

This scenario assumes the global mobile phone market grows at 2% annually and the Smartphone market grows from the currently approximate 50% of the mobile market to 70% by 2017. The iPhone sales are assumed to peak in 2013 at 137 million units and decrease thereafter at an average of 12% per year with the decrease peaking in 2015 at 20%. This represents a peak market share of 18% in 2012 to 3% by 2020 and a 3% share thereafter. Average revenue drops from $620 in 2012 to $450 by 2016 (as a result of the introduction of lower cost iPhones and a wider model range) and by 4% per year thereafter. Gross margins drop from the current mid 50% to below 50% by 2015 and by 2% a year thereafter until it reaches 40%. Revenues peak at $82 billion in 2013 falling to $30 billion by 2017 and to $15 billion by 2022.

iPad sales are assumed to peak in 2014 at just over 70 million units falling steadily to 27 million by 2022. Revenue per unit falls dramatically from $530 in 2012 to $330 by 2015 and $230 by 2022. Gross margins fall from 30% in 2013 to 25% in 2022.

Mac desktop & laptop products fall from approximately 18 million units in 2013 to 10 million by 2020. iPods also fall from 4 million in 2013 to below a million by 2021. Average revenue falls for each product steadily and gross margins fall modestly.

It is assumed that two new products – the iWatch and the iTV – are introduced with limited success. Both products start with 5 million of sales each. The iWatch reaches a peak of 23 million by 2018 before falling off to 15 million by 2022. Average revenue of $200 for the iWatch is assumed with a gross margin of 30% falling by 1% a year thereafter. The iTV reaches a peak of 13.5 units by 2018 before falling off to less than 7 million by 2022. The average revenue starts at $2,000 and falls by 4% annually. The gross margin starts at 30% and falls by 1% a year until it reaches 25%. Based upon an approximate global market of 250 units annually, Apple only manages to reach a peak of 5% market share by 2017 (assuming constant annual sales of 250 units). This scenario assumes that the iWatch is a niche product and the iTV only has limited success with core Apple users.

No other products are assumed to be introduced after 2014. This scenario therefore could reflect the situation where, after unsuccessful product launches and a drop in core markets, Apple essentially becomes a fallen company where management (likely to be new management) simply runs off the company to maximise cash-flow.

Overall revenue falls from over $150 billion in 2013 to under $50 billion by 2022. Gross margins fall from 41% in 2013 to 30% by 2019. Diluted EPS of above $42 in 2013 fall steadily to $5 by 2022.

(click to enlarge)AAPL Loses Its Cool Projections Forecasts

Scenario 2 – Apple Matures Gracefully

This scenario assumes the iPhone sales peak in 2015 at 155 million units and decrease thereafter by approximately 5 million annually to 125 million by 2022. This represents a peak market share of 18% in 2012 to a steady 9%-8% by 2018 and thereafter (assuming 2% average annual mobile market growth and 70% Smartphone share by 2017). Average revenue and gross margin drops as per scenario 1. Revenues peak at $81 billion in 2013 falling to $50 billion by 2022.

iPad sales are assumed to peak in 2016 at 83 million units falling steadily to 70 million by 2022. Revenue per unit and gross margin falls dramatically from $530 in 2012 to $250 by 2016 and $220 by 2022. Gross margins fall as per scenario 1.

Mac products as per scenario 1.

It is assumed that two new products – the iWatch and the iTV – are introduced with relative success. The iWatch is introduced in 2014 and sells 7 million units in its first year with steady annual grow, reaching over 30 million by 2020. Average revenue of $200 for the iWatch is assumed with a gross margin of 30% falling by 1% a year thereafter. The iTV is also introduced in 2014 reaching 5 million sales in its first year. It grows steadily to just under 30 million units by 2020. The average revenue starts at $2,000 and falls by 2% annually. The gross margin starts at 30% and falls by 1% a year until it reaches 25%. Based upon an approximate global market of 250 units annually (and 2% annual growth), Apple reaches a 10% market share by 2019 and retains it thereafter.

This scenario also assumes a new unknown product is launched in 2018 – $500 unit price, 35% gross margin, 6 million sales in first year growing to 24 million by 2022.

Overall revenue oscillates from 2014 to 2022 in a range between $150 billion to $160 billion – with a peak of $164 billion in 2019. Gross margins fall from 41% in 2013 to 34% by 2019 & thereafter. Diluted EPS of above $42 in 2013 fall steadily to $25 by 2022.

(click to enlarge)AAPL Matures Gracefully Projections Forecasts

Scenario 3 – Apple Keeps on Rockin’

This scenario assumes the iPhone sales peak in 2017 at just over 180 million units and decreases gently thereafter to 140 million by 2022. This represents a peak market share of 18% in 2012 to a steady 10%-9% by 2018 and thereafter (assuming 3% average annual mobile market growth and 70% Smartphone share by 2017). Average revenue and gross margin drops as per scenario 1. Revenues peak at $91 billion in 2013 falling to over $70 billion by 2021.

iPad sales are assumed to peak in 2017 at 94 million units falling steadily to 70 million by 2022. Revenue per unit as per scenario 2 with gross margins constant at 30%.

Mac products as per scenario 1 with a steeper fall to approximately 7 million units by 2020 (given the strength of other products assumed move to hand held devices more extreme for PCs & laptops.

It is assumed that two new products – the iWatch and the iTV – are introduced with good success. The iWatch is introduced in 2014 and sells 10 million units in its first year with steady annual grow, reaching over 60 million by 2020. Average revenue of $200 for the iWatch is assumed with a gross margin of 30% falling by 1% a year thereafter. The iTV is also introduced in 2014 reaching 7.5 million sales in its first year. It grows steadily to just under 40 million units by 2019. The average revenue starts at $2,000 and falls by 2% annually. The gross margin remains at a very solid 40% throughout. Based upon an approximate global market of 250 units annually (and assuming 3% growth), Apple reaches a 14% market share by 2019 and retains it thereafter.

This scenario also assumes a new unknown product is launched in 2018 – $500 unit price, 35% gross margin, 10 million sales in first year growing to 40 million by 2022.

Overall revenue grows to $207 billion by 2017 before dropping back to $190 billion by 2022. Gross margins remain strong at 42% for 2013, 41% in 2014, 40% for 2015 to 2018, and 39% thereafter. Diluted EPS range between $40 to $43 from 2013 to 2022.

(click to enlarge)AAPL Keeps on rockin Projections Forecasts

Valuation & Projections

Cash-flows are projected over 10 years for 2013 to 2022 with a termination multiple applied to the discounted 2022 cash-flow. In any cash flow analysis, two key inputs are the discount rate and the termination value. The discount rate is normally tied to the weighted average cost of capital of a company. However, given the current reality detached risk premia in capital markets, I have simply used a variety of rates from 2.5% to 10%. For a company like Apple, given the rapidly changing nature of its market, my instinct says a rate higher than 5% and below 10% is a suitable range for Apple. Similarly, I have simply selected termination multiples based upon the characteristics of each scenario and what I believe is sensible. The results of the discounted cash flow analysis are below (click items to enlarge).Apple valuation projections & scenarios April 2013

Apple graph valuation analysis April 2013

Conclusion

As stated above, the purpose of this analysis is to get a range of possible
valuations for Apple. I like to focus on downside and somewhere around a 30%
downside looks realistic here from $400 per share. One thing is clear, that as Apple enters a phase of reduced growth compared to recent years, the stock price will be volatile. The jitters concerning the Q2 results is simply a symptom of the market trying to figure out the new trajectory for Apple. If Q2 results show a gross margin below 40% and revenues just around expected, I can see the stock price dropping further. Until there is some visibility into the new product line, gross margins and average product revenue, I don’t expect to see any massive upside in AAPL (assuming the market doesn’t go off on one). That visibility is not likely until the latter half of 2013. My initial focus is on the upside and downside dynamics using the 7.5% discount rate which also suggests that there is no need for urgency in jumping into AAPL now. I am tempted to put a small position, between 10%-20% of my possible overall allocation, to average into any position although the analysis herein suggest that many of the current issues surrounding AAPL will remain unanswered come Wednesday.