Tag Archives: Apple overvalued

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.

Apples’ options

Nothing that has occurred concerning Apple (AAPL) since my previous post in April has radically changed my view. The shareholder friendly proposals announced at the last quarterly call and the updates announced  at the recent conference don’t alter the fundamentals. Reduced margins and revenue growth from the flagship iPhone product lines may be partially offset by iPad growth and service revenues (from the likes of iRadio) but Apple’s trajectory is now looking like it’s status as a growth stock is in the past. In short, I think AAPL will trade within a range around +/-20% of its current level until its medium term future is more certain. I don’t see much of a compelling investment case in the short term as I do not think that the market has yet fully grasped the new reality for Apple (e.g. analyst targets still look too rosy to me). I think Apple’s future lies in reinforcing its ecosystem through upgrades, new services and incremental changes to product offerings. New product offerings may restore Apple’s growth status but nothing currently being speculated on seems to be a game changer to me.

I did have a quick look at Apples’ options for opportunities. I used data from Yahoo last weekend at $430 AAPL (I would caution against using data from sources like Yahoo for detailed analysis but they are generally okay for a rough initial feel), as per the graph below (click to enlarge).

Apples optionsGiven the recent volatility in the stock and the current uncertainty, it was no surprise to find that Apple’s options are expensive with significant time decay premia. The option curves are skewed on the upside which reflects current market expectations and doesn’t offer any normal distribution mispricing opportunities.  My analysis show that Apple’s balance sheet limits the downside potential beyond a 30% drop. I was thinking of a possible strategy along the lines of buying the stock and using the dividend to put downside protection but the curve shows that would provide for only a 6 month put at a strike around $360 – not a strategy that is compelling given my views and lack of conviction on the stock.

I do use options occasionally, primarily for two reasons – for risk management purposes (mainly insurance on downsides) or as an investment on a stock by way of an out of the money option that I think will breakout of a historically range (generally on upside but equally valid for downside punt also).  For the latter purpose, the difficulty is finding a liquid out of the money option market over 12 months on such breakout opportunities. Many people follow strategies such as selling puts or calls to supplement returns, such as the one in this article on Apple. I really don’t get these strategies (negative gamma in trader speak). Why take such downside (albeit tail) risk for such little upside? Seems like the ultimate pennies in front of a steamroller play to me. Add in the negative liquidity impacts of the strategy in a stress scenario (just when liquidity becomes so valuable) highlights further the dangers. In the words of the prop trader interviewed in “Inside the House of Money”, Steven Drobny’s excellent book, “you should never be short gamma“.

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.

To Apple, or not to Apple (AAPL)

My household may be somewhat unusual in that we do not own any Apple products. It’s not that we do not understand the attraction; we have family and friends that are Apple fanatics. It has more being a case of not wanting to get sucked into the Apple eco-system and the contrarian in me going against the hype (plus no teenagers in the house!). We have laptops, smart-phones, MP3 players – you name it – all excellent products with brand names across the spectrum but no Apple.

That said, the recent drop in Apple’s share price has got my attention. I recently asked a friend who manages a fund whether Apple was worth considering. An Apple bear, he said that no electronics consumer firm could maintain operating margins in excess of 20% for ever and that Apple’s time had come. Although that made sense to me, Apple is hardly any consumer electronics company. I decided Apple was worth a closer look.

The first thing to highlight is that given Apple is the most analysed company in the world, this post may seem naive to many who are familiar with the company. Monthly sales, component orders, consumer surveys and the like are all analysed by legions of analysts and commentators prior to each quarter’s results. This post simply illustrates what I saw when I had a little dig around into AAPL’s historical results and is likely all old news to AAPL followers. As the graph below shows, a quick look at the past 10 years shows just what an impressive story AAPL has been. Impressive may become an overused word in this post!

From net margins of 1% in 2003, AAPL had an incredible net margin of 27% in 2012 with gross margins over 40%.  Revenues grew from $6.2B in 2003 to $156.5B in 2012. The P/E ratio, using market values in early November (AAPL’s year end is end September) & the trailing annual EPS, which have been adjusted for AAPL’s cash & liquid assets (at approx $110 per share at year end 2012) has decreased from 60 in 2003 to just below 10, at 9.88, for 2012 (a figure not seen since the depths of the financial crisis). To say that AAPL’s balance sheet is a fortress with net assets consistently over 60% of total assets is an understatement!

AAPL 2003 to 2004 Revenue & Net Income

Switching over to the quarterly results from Q1 2009 to Q1 2013, AAPL’s revenue by region (and retail unit) are in the graph below. Its strength in the Americas, Europe and China (as of Q1 2013, its 2nd largest market) can be clearly seen. What is also interesting is that the operating margins across each region, with the exception of the retail unit at 25%, are all over 40% for the 2012 year (with Japan at an astonishing 56%!). It will be interesting to see the exact China margins in future AAPL reports although the 2012 figures suggest that AAPL is maintaining pricing discipline in each of its major markets.

One of the reasons for the drop in AAPL’s share price is the uncertainty over its next block buster product. The iPod was introduced in 2001, the iTunes store in 2003, the Apple retail store in 2004, the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010.  Fierce competition in the smartphone market from players such as Samsung has led to commentators fretting over Apple’s next move. The graph below, showing revenue by major product line, shows the importance of the iPhone to Apple.

Revenue Split by Product 2009 to Q1 2013

The graph below of average revenue by product also shows how the iPad is under pressure, with the introduction of the iPad mini likely to continue the trend. The relative consistency from the other main products should be highlighted as yet another strength.

AAPL Average Revenue by Product 2009 to Q12013

Recent concerns about AAPL include the lack of success of the iPhone 5, the price declines in the iPad range, and the possibility of new launches later in 2013 of a low cost iPhone impacting average revenues of their core product. Speculation about a 2013 launch 0f the iWatch (with a retail price around $220) or the long awaited iTV keeps the hope of a new blockbuster product. Other press reports speculate on what Apple’ recent hiring of robotic expertise could mean and on the next steps in its ongoing battle with Samsung as both a supplier and a competitor. Some reports even conclude that Apple has lost its cool amongst the younger generation and is now a brand associated with thirty somethings and above. Blasphemy to any self respecting Apple worshipper!

All of these concerns have led to AAPL’s current valuation. The graph below shows the quarterly PE ratio from Q4 2009 to Q1 2013 (Q2 2013 on the graph represents the position as at the 2nd of April). The market values are taken a month after quarter end (i.e. after quarterly results) with the cash value deducted. The blue line shows the trailing four quarters EPS whereas the red line shows the current quarter and the following 3 quarters (for Q2 to Q4 2013, I have used average analysts estimates). The graph illustrates how much the market is worried about future growth at Apple with both metrics for Q1 2013 in a 8.0 to 8.30 range. My estimates as of end Q2 2013 (assuming EPS of 10.15, 9.38 and 9.0 for Q2 to Q4) put that multiple around 7.0 (that’s even below the relative valuation seen at the depths of the financial crisis!).

AAPL Valuation Multiples April 2013

So, in conclusion, is Apple undervalued? I don’t know because I don’t know if Apple has peaked. But I do know that this incredible company is at an attractive valuation if the concerns about it’s future growth path can be addressed. I will play with some projections and give the issue further thought (and hopefully post any enlightenments!). One thing is certain though, AAPL trades on current sentiment rather than on its incredible history. My gut tells me that they deserve much more respect than they are currently getting.