An analyst at small investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald wrote that Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) market cap could swell to $1 trillion if shares rise from the current price of $130 to $180, an improbable improvement of almost 40%.
The argument behind the forecast is largely that the Apple Watch will do well and that Apple’s presence in China will explode. Either of these could be wrong, given the risks that the smartwatch will be a failure and that China’s fickle wireless companies or the People’s Republic central government will impede sales of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Without the advantages Apple claims it needs for extensive expansion, its shares could drop back under $100, where they traded less than a year ago.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has made it clear that much of the company’s future lies in China. The country has nearly three-quarters of a billion people who use wireless systems. Unfortunately for Apple, those networks are not all 4G. It could take years for these to be upgraded. The current exception is China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL), which is Apple’s major partner in the country, as it has been an aggressive investor in 4G infrastructure.
As Apple tries to boost its presence in China, several potential hurdles have arisen. According to local media within China, the government has started to investigate whether Apple’s products are a security risk.
Apple also faces both local and global competition in China, all eager to profit from sales in the world’s most populous nation. According to researchers from Canalys, Apple has to overcome its greatest rival Samsung, which has bested it in sales before, as well as Chinese companies Xiaomi and Huawei. Apple’s growth in market share is not a lock.
Harder to forecast than iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus sales are sales of the Apple Watch, both because it is not in the market yet and because skeptics believe it has either too high a price point or insufficient features. If the smartwatch is a failure, Apple’s share price will fall.
Apple’s shares traded at $100 last October, before it was clear that the new iPhone would be a success. That success followed by a failure in China, or with Apple Watch, could drive the price back there.