The Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) bears are finally enjoying their day in the sun. After years of earnings beats, blockbuster product launches, and rapidly ascending stock prices, Apple has finally taken a breather. And it didn’t take long for the buzzards to circle overhead, salivating at the coming doom.
I can empathize with these bears. Until 2011, I was one of them.
I went from believing I’d never want to own a piece of Apple -- that the stock was a bubble waiting to burst -- to making it the keystone of my portfolio. And despite all the doom and gloom I’ve been reading about Apple over the past several weeks, I remain a firm believer.
Still, it’s important to look at the bear case for the company, because an investor’s opinion should always be open to change based on what you read and see. Let’s take a look at some of the arguments we’ve been seeing for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) since it started its descent from $705.
The growth story is over. Apple is no longer a juggernaut.
There’s no question about whether Apple can continue to put up 70% year-over-year earnings growth figures for many years to come. It can’t. The smartphone market will near saturation. So will the tablet market.
As investors, we should acknowledge this. But we should also avoid mistakenly believing that makes Apple a sell. I’ve bought into that before, and paid dearly.
Why? Because Apple is not priced for juggernaut growth. It’s barely priced for growth. Apple is selling at a forward price-to-earnings multiple of less than 9. Compare that to Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s forward PE of nearly 16, despite Apple’s wider margins, and Apple looks cheap even if growth slows significantly.
Considering the growth of those two companies over the past several years, you would think Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) would be the stock fetching the loftier multiple.
Take a quick look:
But competitors are gaining market share in developing countries. Apple will have to make cheaper products to compete. That means margin contraction.
Again, there is validity in this argument. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is at a disadvantage in developing countries, where many people cannot afford the cost of an iPhone and instead opt for cheaper Google Android-based smartphones.
As the smartphone market in those countries grows, Apple’s share could shrink without a lower-end handset. This is surely what fueled rumors of a cheap iPhone, which Apple has since quelched, sort of.
A question for investors to consider is this: Should Apple chase market share in these countries? History tells investors it won’t, and that’s not a bad thing. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s products remain coveted overseas, and are a status symbol in some developing countries.
It could lose market share but continue to grow. And it could do so while maintaining its brand and higher margins.