The Path for Apple Shares to Rocket to $200

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A new street-high analyst call has been laid for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL). Sort of. Steven Milunovich of UBS has opined that Apple shares could hit $200 per share over the next few years, implying a gain of about 42%, without consideration of dividend payments and raised dividends in the next couple of years.

What investors need to consider about this analyst call is that $200 is not an official target price. UBS’s official rating is Buy and its official price target is $151. Thomson Reuters shows that the official street-high analyst target price is actually $185.

A lot of things were shown that have to go in Apple’s favor for investors to see that much higher share price. Without calling that a bull market has to happen, Milunovich said that the following events need to occur to get Apple’s share price up to $200:

  • Apple’s iPhone sales need to continue to grow beyond 2018.
  • Apple must also get some new product categories established.
  • And Apple needs to spend over $50 billion per year in stock buybacks.

These efforts would boost Apple’s price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio to 17. Before thinking that this is a raging bull analyst upgrade, there are some downside risks outlined as well. First off, Apple has been quite slow to unload new major product categories that could make a meaningful change to the revenues and earnings (ditto for expenses and margins).

One concern that was mentioned was if the iPhone doesn’t live up to sales expectations. What if new products don’t materialize or they get delayed?

Milunovich sees iPhone sales growth in the double digits next year, followed by an additional single-digit gain in iPhone sales in 2019. The coming iPhone 8 is expected to lead to the super-cycle based upon numerous upgrades and advancements not available in prior generations. After 2019, that is expected to be an innovation phase.

It is not unusual for investors to hear wildly bullish upside targets. In fact, this is quite common from many firms. When a lot of thing have to line up right, it is important to consider that it means the stars have to be aligned. A major market correction would likely derail such bullishness.

Earlier in March, Milunovich suggested that the Apple brand remains strong but China needs to grow in 2018. The view said:

We have tempered our F18 iPhone upgrade expectations but still expect a bulge of buying in F18 followed by some growth in F19. As the iPhone matures, investors should start to better appreciate the size of the installed base, which promotes hardware and services gains. Upper single-digit EPS growth is likely on a flattish margin and continued share repurchase. Apple is a platform deserving a valuation between legacy computer stocks and pure software platforms like Google.

UBS’s prior upside target from earlier in March was $165, noted as follows:

iPhone growth in F17e is better than expected at 8% due to better-than-expected upgrade rates and growth in new customers. Revenue growth comes in at 8% versus consensus estimate of 5%. With stronger iPhone growth than expected investors have renewed confidence Apple has yet to reach peak iPhone and see double digit iPhone growth as likely with the next iPhone. Investors have renewed faith that innovation is strong at Apple and potential new products—VR, car, Apple TV—could have impact longer term. F17e EPS comes in above consensus at $9.30, and the multiple expands beyond peak 2014 levels at 18x, in-line with the market, due to increased confidence around upgrade rates and new products.

Investors should consider how much the enthusiasm for Apple has grown over recent months. Thomson Reuters data shows that the consensus analyst price target was down at $140.98 a month ago, at $133.40 60 days ago and at $131.96 at the end of December. That consensus analyst price target was between $125 and $130 most of the second half of 2016.

Thomson Reuters also showed that the consensus revenue estimates rise from $228 billion for 2017 to almost $246 billion in 2018 and to $250 billion in 2019. Apple’s annualized dividend payment per share is also expected to grow to $2.32 in 2017, followed by $2.58 in 2018, $2.63 in 2019 and $3.19 in 2020.

Apple shares were likely boosted by the market recovery (Nasdaq, Dow and S&P 500 all were up 0.6% on average). Still, the gain was actually 1.8% at $143.46 on the day. That is a new high, and the consensus analyst price target is up at $145.15.