Amazon, Apple, Alphabet and Microsoft: Buybacks May Play Role in Quest for a $1 Trillion Market Cap

The dot-com bubble burst in 2000, but many of the key technology stocks have overtaken their former highs of almost 20 years ago with a vengeance. While most investors are not looking at 2018 as a bubble, the reality is that there are some valuation metrics that are becoming unique. One issue to consider is that the market is now rather close to having more than one U.S.-based company reach a $1 trillion market cap.

The quest for the $1 trillion market cap is currently being led by Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), with its $937.6 billion market cap. That means that a mere 6.6% rally in Apple shares would make for a $1 trillion market cap, which puts $203.50 as the target that basically reaches the $1 trillion mark. Or does it? Apple’s mighty shareholder return plan, and particularly Apple’s major stock buybacks, might get in the way of a $1 trillion market cap. Apple has a 1.55% dividend yield. Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) may be in second place in the quest for a $1 trillion market cap. At roughly $1,825 a share, Amazon’s market cap is $885 billion. Jeff Bezos’s pride and joy of a stock would need to rise roughly 13% to around $2,062 to reach $1 trillion. Amazon pays no dividend and is unlikely to for quite some time. Amazon is also better off making growth-generating acquisitions and making its own capital spending and long-term reinvestments in the company due to having such a high market valuation.

Then there is Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL), the company many of us would like to still refer to as Google. Alphabet’s current share price of $1,198.50 generates an $827 billion market cap, implying that Alphabet share price would need to rise almost 21% to roughly $1,449. Alphabet does repurchase stock, but not at the same rate as Apple or others. And Alphabet has no dividend.

Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) was last seen trading at $105.00, with an $805 billion market cap. This would require a 24% share price gain to almost $130. It turns out that Microsoft has spent close to $50 billion in stock buybacks in the past five years, and the company will be repurchasing shares ahead. Microsoft has a 1.65% dividend yield.

There is an issue that may alter the course for the race to a $1 trillion market value. That is Apple’s latest $100 billion stock buyback. It has been reported that Apple has spent roughly $200 billion in stock buybacks and another $75 billion or so in dividends. It spent almost $100 billion buying back stock in less than three years, and over $23 billion came in just one recent quarter alone. If Apple is aggressive on its new $100 billion share buyback, its race to the $1 trillion mark has to consider a lower amount of total authorized shares due to the buyback shares effectively being retired.

As companies buy back stock and retire shares, the total number of shares outstanding is decreased. The total number of authorized shares shrinks if the shares are considered as “permanently” retired. If a company increases its shares over time with additional employee stock options, then the buybacks can be viewed differently.