I’ve been called an unabashed Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) cheerleader. It’s a badge I wear proudly. But it’s come at a cost. Given that shares are trading at roughly 40% below its 52-week high, I’ve paid dearly. Nobody’s perfect. But somehow the market’s expectations presumed this company could execute flawlessly forever. Investors are sad to discover that this company is not being led by magicians. Admittedly, I was shocked as well. But unlike most, I’m not scorned or bitter, nor do I feel the need for revenge. Let’s have some perspective.
Has a good thing come to an end?
Lately, this has been the thought process. To that end, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s $137 billion cash hoard now offends a lot of people, one in particular being David Einhorn. There has been a deluge of articles demanding that Apple buys back stock, increase the dividend, or perform a combination thereof, with Einhorn’s so-called “iPref” proposal leading the charge. It’s a tug-of-war between Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s ideals and how best to serve the interest of investors. Einhorn’s proposal and his claims are not flawless, but that’s not to say they lack merit.
Just ahead of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday, a federal court sided with Einhorn’s attempt to stop the company from putting a preferred stock proposal up for vote. But publicly undermining the company doesn’t help matters. While Einhorn’s proposal talks about ways to artificially create value for shareholders, it doesn’t change sentiment. Nor does it address what is really at the center of this debate: Has a good thing come to an end? I don’t think it has. With or without iPrefs (which are said to potentially unlock $150 per share), there’s still considerable “organic” value in Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), which is still the cheapest stock on the market.
Is the worst over or are there still execution risks?
I’m still bullish. But knowing now that Apple’s leaders are actually human, there’s also a degree of skepticism. For example, ahead of Apple’s first-quarter report, news surfaced from The Wall Street Journal that Apple had made 50% cuts to iPhone 5 orders while citing “weaker-than-expected demand.” This report coincided with concerns that the company had lost its knack for innovation, was losing its cachet to Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), and was also bleeding market share to Samsung. The list was long.
Others refuted the report, calling it “old news.” But the stock still took a hit. And whether or not the news was relevant, it also brings up other potential scenarios, none of which were positive. Has Apple finally saturated the market? After all, it’s been six years since the iPhone’s debut. Management deserves credit for cutting orders (if that’s truly what it was), since there’s no point in carrying unnecessary inventory. But I do wonder why this supply/demand blockage was not anticipated sooner, especially on the heels of other gaffes related to the maps software.
These execution missteps are expected from Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) BlackBerry and Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ), not at Apple. As an investor, I need to know if the worst is over and if this company is truly back on track to achieving its long term potential. If not, then I have to fully support Einhorn. But I’m not there yet. And what the company reveals on Wednesday should help me decide.