The Bull and Bear Case for EMC in 2014

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EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) is a definite leader in storage, but its fate has become less clear in the tech world headed to the cloud. The number of competitors is just massive. 24/7 Wall St. has been evaluating a bullish and bearish scenario for all DJIA stocks and other key stocks to the market. EMC deserves such a review.

After closing at $25.05 in 2013, its stock was for all practical purposes flat in the year that the S&P 500 index rose 29.6%. EMC did finally start paying a dividend, and now it is also in a large stock buyback program. Perhaps the hardest thing to stomach for many investors is that EMC’s $52 billion in market cap has been stuck in the same trading range for three years now.

EMC trades at only about 12 times forward earnings, yet it also still owns the super majority voting stake of VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) as well. The consensus price target of $29.62 implies upside of 17%, and some analysts think EMC is worth closer to the mid-$30s.

Virtualization leader VMware has a market value of almost $40 billion on its own. At $92.84 now, VMware’s consensus analyst price target is $99, and the highest analyst price target is $125 for the stock price.

The bullish case is one in which EMC’s valuation just seems too cheap to be possible. The bearish case is that it faces immense competition from any and every tech company with cloud ambitions. Its stock could even represent a potential value trap for cynical investors. Data deduplication has yet to massively hurt EMC’s sell-through rates, even if other pressures may have limited its growth. Newer forms of storage sales can be fended off by EMC protecting its patents and via acquisitions.

EMC does not publically disclose the percentage of sales that it generates from the U.S. government. That being said, EMC is expected to generate about $25 billion in 2014 revenue, representing close to 8% sales growth. EMC also has represented in the not so distant past that the demand for storage is exponential in the decade ahead.

In a vacuum it seems reasonable to think that EMC can get to $30 or even higher. The problem is that long-term trading ranges are extremely difficult to break out of. A raging bull market might help EMC escape that range, but a choppy and fairly valued stock market might be a hard case for EMC to be sell elsewhere.