Why Merrill Lynch Sees Apple Rising to $180!

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Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) is known for its success in driving the high-end categories of products with more growth consistently. In fact, Apple accounted for 10% of global consumer spending in 2016. Considering this incredible success, analysts have been lifting their targets each chance they get. Shares hit another all-time high in Friday’s session following one impressive upgrade from Merrill Lynch.

Merrill Lynch has a Buy rating for Apple and raised its price target to $180 from $155, versus the most recent closing price of $153.95. This upgrade is implying an upside of nearly 17%.

In Merrill Lynch’s opinion, the markets that Apple currently addresses can be roughly $550 billion in 2020 and close adjacencies can be $300 billion ($140 billion excluding TV). This excludes potential total addressable market (TAM) from health care and automotive. In the firm’s view, Apple products will make health monitoring much easier and simplify interacting with health care professionals, which arguably will lead to increased stickiness in the ecosystem. The auto market can be an incremental TAM (Merrill Lynch considers only the premium market of about $700 billion in 2020). Apple with its immense net cash of $158 billion can easily enter most markets through mergers and acquisitions.

Apple still has room to grow and gain share in the traditional areas of smartphones, tablets, wearables and desktops/laptops as evidenced by the latest reported year ($350 billion remaining addressable market in 2016). New areas for Apple to explore include game consoles/handheld games, cameras/camcorders, DVD Players/Blu-ray players, set-top boxes, streaming audio and video services, wearables and TVs/HDTVs. Virtual reality represents a TAM of $30 billion in 2020.

Merrill Lynch gave its investment rationale as follows:

We rate Apple a Buy on potential upside from 1) Continued long-term opportunity in China, 2) potential share gains from the release of a lowerend iPhone, 3) strength in the upcoming iPhone 8 cycle, 4) optionality in cash balance, revenue sources like Apple Pay, Apple Watch, home/health kit, etc., that will take time to mature.

Shares of Apple were trading up 1.4% at $156.12 on Friday, with a consensus analyst price target of $152.96 and a 52-week trading range of $90.00 to $156.42.