Why HP and Dell Both Can Outperform Apple Stock Heading Into 2021

It is an undisputed fact that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) is the greatest investor story of the 21st century. After all, Apple was in trouble in the late-1990s, and it wasn’t until the iPod that real interest started the ball rolling. After hitting a $2 trillion market capitalization and after yet another stock split, Apple’s stock could be losing its luster.

24/7 Wall St. reminds its readers with each analyst montage that it is never a good idea to use a single analyst report as the sole basis for making decision to buy or sell a stock. Still, what happens when an analyst at a prominent investment banking firm says that many of the older less “too hot to handle” tech stocks now offer more upside than Apple?

David Vogt of UBS downgraded Apple to Neutral from Buy. Even though the price target was raised to $115 from $106, investors just are not supposed to get excited by upside of about 3%. Most Buy and Outperform ratings in large cap stocks come with an implied total return of about 8% to 10%.

The new hardware and networking analyst at UBS raised HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) and Dell Technologies Inc. (NYSE: DELL) to Buy from Neutral in the call. These two companies used to fight Apple hand over fist for monthly personal computer sales, but now they are much broader technology players.

Vogt’s view on Apple is that the upcoming iPhone 12 cycle is fully reflected in the stock price. He also believes that the hardware business is likely to drift to lower growth in 2021 after this cycle plays out. He noted that 80% of Apple’s revenue comes from iPhones, PCs, wearables and iPads.

UBS sees Dell and HP both as having strategic optionality.

Dell’s strengths are being touted as gains from the strategic options for its controlling stake in VMware, potentially a tax-free spin-off. The move could lower Dell’s core leverage while unlocking value. UBS has now adjusted its Dell price target to $80 to reflect the new targets, which implies just over 20% upside from the $66.31 prior closing price. Dell’s 52-week high is $68.61, and it should be noted that the Refinitiv consensus analyst target price was $68.67.

As for HP, the UBS view is that the company is using its strong cash flows for an aggressive capital allocation plan at the same time it is cutting costs. With higher margins and potential double-digit earnings per share growth could drive its current low price-to-earnings ratio higher. The new adjusted target price went to $25 (from $18) in the UBS call, and the consensus target was just $19.54. This implies upside of more than 35% from the $18.44 prior close.

Shares of HP were still down about 10% year to date, but Dell’s gain over the same period has been about 29%.

Again, it is probably never a good idea to use only one analyst call as the sole basis for buying or selling a stock. In the new analyst calls at UBS, the analyst also happens to match the most aggressive price targets from the sell-side community.

Where the analyst call does not deviate much from the consensus target price is in Apple. Refinitiv has a $118.99 consensus target, and that’s after the stock has seen multiple analysts raise their target prices in recent days. Apple shares also had pulled back about 24% after its predictable post-split sell-off pattern was repeated and then overshot. With Apple at close to $109.50, the stock is still up about 50% so far in 2020.