Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) has enjoyed one of the best runs that a stock could enjoy over the last decade. In fact, Apple is still the largest company by market capitalization even after the serious pullback we have seen. It is worth some $486 billion.
Apple has seen a second price target cut by the analyst that Wall Street has deemed one of Apple’s most bullish analysts. Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray has maintained an outperform rating but has lowered his price target yet again. The target price cuts have been small, first to $900 from $910 and now to $875 for the stock. Apple’s all-time high is $705.07 and the consensus price target is still up at almost $740 for this great company.
Munster has lowered the target in part due to a cheaper iPhone. He thinks that this is the right move as Apple needs to address the lower market but he also cautions that Apple might not enjoy the same success in a lower-end version. That may bite into Apple’s high 41.5% gross margin target for next year but Munster also feels this could be a catalyst.
We would note that Munster has been what Wall Street would call a Perma-Bull when it comes to Apple. Munster’s $875 call is far from bearish because it is still $135 or so higher than the consensus. Still, Apple shares have lost their mojo. Many analysts and market pundits have abandoned the stock.
Perhaps the biggest call of analysts came from portfolio manager Robert Kleinschmidt of Toccqueville Asset Management. He told Fortune in late-2012 that he would recommend to buy shares of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) and to sell shares of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL). That was in late November or early December and his thesis was that Microsoft is cheap in valuation with limited downside while Apple was compared to as having the risks of Sony in the past. That being said, Kleinschmidt did include the caveat that Apple is not an expensive stock even though the sentiment may be wrong in the “infallible” status.
We noted in December that the analyst downgrade cycle had begun and that is what this call from Munster echoes. In December, Canaccord Genuity’s T. Michael Walkley maintained a Buy rating but cut the price target to $750 from $800. That call cited November channel checks indicating very strong sales of the iPhone 5 but it lowered F2013 and F2014 iPhone and iPad estimates due to softer sales expectations in international markets. He said, “Despite our slightly lowered estimates, we believe Apple’s industry-leading software ecosystem and integrated hardware experience will result in a strong multi-year product cycle.” Also in December, Citigroup cut its rating to Neutral from Buy and slashed its price target down to $575 from $675 after cautious comments had been made by UBS, Jefferies, and Pacific Crest. Jeff Gundlach of Doubleline Capital has gone on the air to suggest that if Apple lives up to the bubble burst of other great tech bubbles that it could fall down closer to $400.
We would remind investors about one thing. At $517 or so, for Apple to hit its recent all-time it would require a rally of more than 36%. In dollar terms, that implies that on a straight-line basis investors would theoretically have to commit some $175 billion or so (yes billion)of new investment dollars just to get the stock back to its all-time high. For that $875 target of Gene Munster to be hit, investors would theoretically have to commit another $336 billion in new investment dollars.
*“New investment dollars” refers to the gain in market capitalization if share price was truly based upon supply and demand. This does not include when market makers and traders gap the stock up based on news trades after earnings and product announcements.
Jon C. Ogg