1. How to use GuruFocus - Tutorials
  2. What Is in the GuruFocus Premium Membership?
  3. A DIY Guide on How to Invest Using Guru Strategies
Eric Sprague
Eric Sprague
Articles (8)  | Author's Website |

Apple Is An Outstanding Company At A Reasonable Price

May 04, 2013 | About:

2012 was an extraordinary year for Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) so 2013 comparisons are difficult. Margins were very high compared to most public companies - they had room to drop. Per the April 23rd Earnings Call, the worldwide smartphone market will double by 2016. The tablet market will grow even faster. It is not a zero sum game between Apple and Samsung - a company can lose market share and still grow. Apple is an outstanding company known for making quality products. Consumers remain very loyal once they join the Apple ecosystem.

Apple is an outstanding company and the April 23, 2013 Earnings Call showed that they are also smart about capital allocation. Announcing 60b worth of buybacks when the stock is near 52 week lows creates value for shareholders. Many other companies choose to do the opposite - announcing buybacks near 52 week highs.

The 10-Q and 10-K sec filings are the primary source for this article - especially when it comes to the graphs.

Apple's CEO Discusses F2Q13 Results - Earnings Call Transcript from Seeking Alpha is another key source.


Quiz: What should long-term shareholders want Apple's stock price to do in the short run?

Sure, human nature is to try to buy the stock near the bottom and hope it goes up quickly so one can immediately brag about it. However, if we're going to be long term owners of this company then we want to be patient. We want the company to buy back shares while they're not too expensive.

Apple recently announced stock buybacks of 60b between now and 2015. Long-term shareholders should think twice about whether they want the stock price to go up or down while this happens. Warren Buffett does a nice job explaining a similar situation at IBM in his 2011 letter to shareholders.


Today, IBM has 1.16 billion shares outstanding, of which we own about 63.9 million or 5.5%. Naturally, what happens to the company's earnings over the next five years is of enormous importance to us. Beyond that, the company will likely spend $50 billion or so in those years to repurchase shares. Our quiz for the day: What should a long-term shareholder, such as Berkshire, cheer for during that period?

I won't keep you in suspense. We should wish for IBM's stock price to languish throughout the five years.

Let's do the math. If IBM's stock price averages, say, $200 during the period, the company will acquire 250 million shares for its $50 billion. There would consequently be 910 million shares outstanding, and we would own about 7% of the company. If the stock conversely sells for an average of $300 during the five-year period, IBM will acquire only 167 million shares. That would leave about 990 million shares outstanding after five years, of which we would own 6.5%.

If IBM were to earn, say, $20 billion in the fifth year, our share of those earnings would be a full $100 million greater under the "disappointing" scenario of a lower stock price than they would have been at the higher price. At some later point our shares would be worth perhaps $1 1⁄2 billion more than if the "high-price" repurchase scenario had taken place.

The logic is simple: If you are going to be a net buyer of stocks in the future, either directly with your own money or indirectly (through your ownership of a company that is repurchasing shares), you are hurt when stocks rise. You benefit when stocks swoon. Emotions, however, too often complicate the matter: Most people, including those who will be net buyers in the future, take comfort in seeing stock prices advance. These shareholders resemble a commuter who rejoices after the price of gas increases, simply because his tank contains a day's supply.

Charlie and I don't expect to win many of you over to our way of thinking - we've observed enough human behavior to know the futility of that - but we do want you to be aware of our personal calculus. And here a confession is in order: In my early days I, too, rejoiced when the market rose. Then I read Chapter Eight of Ben Graham's The Intelligent Investor, the chapter dealing with how investors should view fluctuations in stock prices. Immediately the scales fell from my eyes, and low prices became my friend. Picking up that book was one of the luckiest moments in my life.

In the end, the success of our IBM investment will be determined primarily by its future earnings. But an important secondary factor will be how many shares the company purchases with the substantial sums it is likely to devote to this activity.

Analysts keep talking about falling margins at Apple. The latest quarter came in with a gross margin of 37.5 which was at the low end of Apple's guidance. Still, Apple's gross margins and net profit margins are consistently higher than competitors like Samsung. Samsung makes commodity type products like televisions so they continually have a harder time with margins. Many other companies would be happy to have margins like Apple's.

During the April 23rd 2013 Q2 Earnings Call, Tim Cook and Peter Oppenheimer said margins are only part of the big picture. Margins by product line aren't disclosed but it is well known that products like ipods and ipad minis have lower margins. Still, Apple is happy to include them in the mix - they bring new people into the Apple ecosystem.

2008 to 2012 Gross Margins & Net Profit Margins


Graph Sources:

AAPL Financials

SSNLF Financials

AAPL Gross Margin

2008: 34.3

2009: 40.1

2010: 39.4

2011: 40.5

2012: 43.9

AAPL Net Margin

2008: 14.9

2009: 19.2

2010: 21.5

2011: 23.9

2012: 26.7

SSNLF Gross Margin

2008: 24.1

2009: 23.8

2010: 30.5

2011: 25.2

2012: 29.6

SSNLF Net Margin

2008: 7.6

2009: 10.7

2010: 11.8

2011: 8.3

2012: 12.3

Here is what Peter Oppenheimer said about margins during the April 23rd Earnings Call:

So while we don't want to make a forecast beyond June, let me tell you how we think about gross margin and hopefully this will help. We are managing the business for the long-term and are willing to trade off short-term profit where we see long-term potential. The iPod is a great example of this. When we launched it in 2001, its margins were significantly below the margins of Apple at that time.

Four years later, the iPod and the iTunes Music Store comprised half of Apple's revenues and inspired us to build the iPhone. The iPad mini is another great example. We have priced it aggressively and its margins are significantly below the corporate average. However, we believe deeply in the long-term potential of the tablet market and think that we've made a great strategic decision. We'll only make great products and this precludes us from making cheap products that don't deliver a great experience.

We believe deeply that there are people in every part of the world that want great products. Looking back over the last several years, we've made very good business decisions balancing units, revenues, and the bottom line. We think about all three and as I said, we're willing to make short-term trade-offs and profits, where we see long-term potential.

And we're managing Apple with a very long-term horizon. Some of our revenues and profits occur after we ship our products. We were thrilled to exceed this quarter $4 billion in revenue for our services for the first time. And as Tim mentioned, we will augment our very strong ecosystem with new services and make the current ones even, even better. So we remain very confident in our strategy and we will use our world-class skills in engineering and operations to manage our business well in the future.
Six Months Net Sales by Product

Apple doesn't provide operating income nor margins by product. However, they do provide net sales. We're in the middle of the fiscal year so we'll look at net sales for the first six months of each fiscal year from 2010 to 2013.

2010 Six Months Sales (in millions $)1960098972.jpg

2011 Six Months Sales (in millions $)130642154.jpg[/u]2012 Six Months Sales (in millions $)

661729170.jpg [u]
2013 Six Months Sales (in millions $)


Source Data from 10-Q filings


iPhone: 11,023

iPad: 0

Mac: 8,210

iPod: 5,252

iTunes/Other: 3,756 (Other Music: 2,491 + Software: 1,265)

Peripherals: 941

Total: 29,182


iPhone: 22,766

iPad: 7,444

Mac: 10,406

iPod: 5,025

iTunes/Other 4,594 (Other Music: 3,065 + Software: 1,529)

Peripherals: 1,173

Total: 51,408


iPhone: 46,226

iPad: 15,033

Mac: 11,671

iPod: 3,735

iTunes, Software & Services: 6,191

Accessories: 2,663

Total: 85,519


iPhone: 53,615

iPad: 19,420

Mac: 10,966

iPod: 3,105

iTunes, Software & Services: 7,801

Accessories: 3,208

Total: 98,115

*Used 2013 filing for 2012 numbers.

Analysts sometimes panic when iPod sales drop or when Mac sales drop. The pie charts look a little more stable when we group the iPod and iPhone slices together (people listen to music on their phones). This combination is typically more than half the pie. I also like to look at iPads and Macs together. Combined, they typically make up about 1/4th to 1/3rd of the pie.

Operating Income

Operating Income by Geographic Segment (in millions $)2016147085.jpg

*These segment operating income numbers exclude share-based compensation expense and other corporate expenses.



Q1: 1,811

Q2: 1,674

Q3: 1,997

Q4: 2,108 (7,590 - 5,482)


Q1: 2,899

Q2: 3,755

Q3: 3,596

Q4: 3,288 (13,538 - 10,250)


Q1: 7,233

Q2: 5,688

Q3: 5,202

Q4: 5,664 (23,733 - 18,069)


Q1: 7,349

Q2: 5,148



Q1: 2,165

Q2: 1,661

Q3: 1,631

Q4: 2,067 (7,524 - 5,457)


Q1: 2,756

Q2: 2,551

Q3: 3,107

Q4: 3,114 (11,528 - 8,414)


Q1: 4,663

Q2: 3,942

Q3: 3,261

Q4: 3,199 (15,015 - 11,816)


Q1: 4,409

Q2: 3,449



Q1: 354

Q2: 441

Q3: 390

Q4: 661 (1,846 - 1,185)


Q1: 572

Q2: 689

Q3: 735

Q4: 485 (2,481 - 1,996)


Q1: 1,989

Q2: 1,543

Q3: 1,073

Q4: 1,318 (5,915 - 4,597)


Q1: 2,260

Q2: 1,555

Asia-Pacific & China


Q1: 820

Q2: 892

Q3: 841

Q4: 1,094 (3,647 - 2,553)


Q1: 2,042

Q2: 2,045

Q3: 2,782

Q4: 2,718 (9,587 - 6,869)


Q1: 3,299 (1,706 + 1,593)

Q2: 4,859 (3,781 + 1,078)

Q3: 3,374

Q4: 2,782 (14,234 - 11,452)


Q1: 3,879 (2,544 + 1,335)

Q2: 3,821 (2,787 + 1,034)



Q1: 481

Q2: 373

Q3: 593

Q4: 917 (2,364 - 1,447)


Q1: 1,006

Q2: 782

Q3: 802

Q4: 652 (3,242 - 2,590)


Q1: 1,851

Q2: 1,154

Q3: 868

Q4: 848 (4,719 - 3,871)


Q1: 1,557

Q2: 1,092

*We used the 2011 Retail numbers from the 2012 filings.

*We used the 2012 Q1 and Q2 numbers from the 2013 Q1 and Q2 filings.

As you can see, Apple is a global company. For example, sometimes analysts seem to put too much focus on Apple's dependence on carrier subsidies in the US market.


KANTAR talks about Apple's Unshakeable Loyalty

Apple has managed to reach near cult-level status with its keen following and it is this unshakeable loyalty which has driven the brand's consistent performance. When Apple releases a new device, around 80% of its existing customers in Britain will buy it.

Unlike competitors, Apple is not fragmented. During the April 23rd, 2013 Earnings Call, Tim Cook said that payment processing is in its infancy. If Apple moves forward in this area or in other new areas like tv then their ecosystem and brand loyalty give them a huge advantage over competitors.


CFO Peter Oppenheimer talked about security in the April 23rd Earnings Conference Call. Specifically, he cited mcafee.com saying 95% of mobile malware is on android. The Mobile Malware Growth Continuing in 2013 article from February 21, 2013 talks about this:

The Android platform continues to make up the bulk of malware targets, representing 97% of total mobile malware.
Symantec's Volume 18 Internet Security Report from April 2013 also talks about the fact that most mobile malware is on android:

Vulnerabilities likely will become a factor in mobile malware, but today Android's market share, the openness of the platform, and the multiple distribution methods available to applications embedded with malware make it the go-to platform of malware authors.

[page 5]

In contrast to vulnerabilities, Android was by far the most commonly targeted mobile platform in 2012, comprising 103 out of 108 unique threats.

[page 34]

In the last year, we have seen a further increase in mobile malware. This correlates with increasing numbers of Internetconnected mobile devices. Android has a 72 percent market share with Apple® iOS a distant second with 14 percent, according to Gartner.18 As a result of its market share and more open development environment, Android is the main target for mobile threats.

[page 37]

Chitika noted how they were cited in Apple's April 23rd Earnings Call:Apple CFO Cites Chitika Data on Earnings Call

In one of the most highly anticipated earnings calls of 2013, Apple SVP and CFO Peter Oppenheimer cited Chitika Insights data, using stats from our most recent Tablet Market Share Study.

Oppenheimer stated, "And in the enterprise, iOS devices have a strong lead over Android. In its most recently published quarterly enterprise device activations report, good technologies found that iOS devices accounted for 77% of all activations by its corporate customers. And thanks to careful App Store curation for the quality of apps, the iOS platform offers a much more secure environment...But perhaps the most important measure of the success of our ecosystem is how engaged our customers are with our products and services. In its most recently published update, Chitika found that iPad accounted for 82% of all North American tablet-led traffic in March."

This further highlights the importance of data looking at web usage in addition to sales and shipment figures when determining success of a device on the market.
Phone Size

The market has spoken and consumers want the option of bigger phone sizes. Apple won't release a bigger version if it sacrifices things like battery life, brightness and resolution. Hopefully they'll work these issues out quickly and give consumers what they want.

Steve Jobs did a nice job limiting the amount of products Apple produced. Current management recognizes this fact and they will not release too many screen sizes if this diminishes quality in any way.

Here is a phone size question and answer from the April 23rd Earnings Call:

Ben A. Reitzes - Barclays Capital, Inc.

All right, thanks. And Tim, my follow-up just for you, just maybe asking you this every quarter in different ways. But I just wanted to get your reaction to what you thought of the 5-inch phone market at this time versus three months ago? And if anything has changed in your view as to that market and its place in the smartphone world versus your 4-inch product? And that's it from me.

Tim Cook

Yeah Ben, that's a good question. My view continues to be that iPhone 5 has the absolute best display in the industry. And we always strive to create the very best display for our customers. And some customers value large screen size, others value also other factors such as resolution, color quality, white balance, brightness, reflectivity, screen longevity, power consumption, portability, compatibility with apps and many things.

Our competitors had made some significant trade-offs in many of these areas in order to ship a larger display, we would not ship a larger display iPhone while these trade-offs exist.

Interbrand's Best Global Brands 2012 report has Apple as the #2 brand in the world with a value of 76,568m.


A lot of cars have Apple stickers on them but one doesn't see many car stickers for competitors like Samsung.


It is important to look at Apple's cash when talking about valuation. Per the April 23rd Earnings Call, Apple ended 2013 Q2 with 144.7b in cash plus short-term and long-term marketable securities. As of the close of trading on April 29, 2013, market cap was a little over 400b. This puts cash/securities at over 35% of the market cap! If interbrand.com is correct and the brand is worth over 75b then over half the market cap is made up of the brand and the cash/securities. The company had net income of 41,733b in 2012 so the p/e ratio is very low.


I always used to be a windows guy but my iPhone, iPad and Mac have changed the ways I see things. Apple makes great products and their consumers help sell more products by word of mouth. They take things like security seriously such that their consumers waste less time running things like anti virus software.

2012 was a phenomenal year so 2013 comparisons have a hard time measuring up. Still, this is an amazing company with more innovations yet to come and it is reasonably priced at this time.


I am long AAPL, IBM, BRK.A, BRK.B AND MSFT. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. Any material in this article should not be relied on as a formal investment recommendation.

About the author:

Rating: 3.8/5 (13 votes)


Gurufocus premium member - 4 years ago
When you talk about Apple with people like Warren Buffett, or Don Yacktman, their concerns are that the business is too competitive, and it is hard to predict where Apple will be 5 years from now. This is what Don Yacktman said in his talk at Value Investor's Conference:

"Let me address Apple. Here’s my concern with Apple (AAPL): Apple has hit like four home runs in a row. Made tremendous investments under Steve Jobs. How many more can they hit, I don’t know. But if you take the strategy they have of high profit margins and not reducing price, you create enormous umbrella where people can come. This happens over and over again in technology. Eventually someone can say I can get an Android or Blackberry and start coming in at half the price and 90% of the same capabilities. Why would I continue to objectively keep buying the other one. My kids love Apple. But that’s a problem"

SixTwoSix - 4 years ago    Report SPAM
It is an outstanding company at a reasonable price...........TODAY.

But the value is dependant on the future......points not addressed in the article.

Points like:

Law of large numbers, how fast can revenues grow.

Margins, if competitors offer similar better products.

Truth is nobody knows.....not even the people at apple.

Eric Sprague
Eric Sprague - 4 years ago    Report SPAM

Yes, margins will continue to go down in the short term as they are sacrificed in order to get more people into the ecosystem with ipad minis. In the long term I think margins will be ok.

Thanks for the comment. --Eric
Shaved_head_and_balls - 4 years ago    Report SPAM
Increasing competition, decreasing margins, decreasing social prestige for the brand. This is Apple's future, along with a decreasing share price. Microsoft's Windows platform was a strong ecosystem with a larger market share and more barriers to competitors--but that didn't stop Microsoft from losing their grip on the personal computing market.

Speculating on Apple is like buying Blackberry as the momentum reversed course, though the declines for Apple will likely be slower.
Cornelius Chan
Cornelius Chan - 4 years ago    Report SPAM
According to the fundamentals, there is nothing to justify a -44% share price in 7 months. But that is the way of Mr. Market. Therefore, yes, AAPL is a good undervalued stock.

When the company recently announced its first dividend in 17 years, I said to myself "ok, there goes the share price LOL!" The dividend will console shareholders from a falling stock price. Double LOL.

However, as Pepsi is to Coke, so is Apple to Microsoft. It is not an either-or, it is a both-and. Both will survive and thrive. They may employ false left-right paradigms to stimulate excitement from the masses, but this is just mass marketing.

After a going-vertical share price 6X in less than 5 years, the stock is due for a pullback. Such is nature.

Because the fundamentals are still so good and because the USA is still the world's single most economic powerhouse and foreseeing of another massive stimulus program by the central bank directors, it is only logical to invest now for the next run up.

If indeed the company produces superior reliable products, the world will notice and harness the productivity gains, causing continued good fundamentals.

The reason Buffett does not invest in more tech stocks is he came up in an era without it being a necessity of productivity. Now and in the future, tech has moved more into the centre of the economy. And with the internet, a wired world dependent on tech is part of the substance of things hoped for. His predecessor's may or may not see this and act accordingly.

Batbeer2 premium member - 4 years ago
>> According to the fundamentals, there is nothing to justify a -44% share price in 7 months.


What do you consider to be "fundamentals"?
Eric Sprague
Eric Sprague - 4 years ago    Report SPAM

I agree that Buffett not coming up in the tech era is a reason he doesn't invest more in these types of stocks. At yesterday's shareholder's meeting he said that he isn't as confident about IBM's moat as he is about Coca-Cola's.

Additional Disclosure: In addition to the long positions in the article disclosure, I am also long ko.
Cornelius Chan
Cornelius Chan - 4 years ago    Report SPAM
Hi Batbeer2,

The annual 10-K and annual report financial statements show the fundamentals. The ten-year track record for Apple shows every year growing revenues, net earnings, book value growth of the company, and a far-above-average return on equity. These are the quick points I look at to determine the fundamentals of a company. I think a guy should be able to look at any company's fundamentals on the Gurufocus 10-year financial data pages and decide in under 30-seconds whether it would make a good investment or not.

Other fundamentals like management quality and the soft record of a company's history of notable achievements can be found in the news media and other write-ups.

I am not smart enough nor do I have enough time to go into the quarterly results for companies. Annual results is where it is at. I invest accordingly.
Batbeer2 premium member - 4 years ago
>> The ten-year track record for Apple shows every year growing revenues, net earnings, book value growth of the company, and a far-above-average return on equity.

OK. Those are amazing results. When I think of fundamentals though, I'm looking for the cause of results. To me the key question for Apple is knowing wether the drivers of past results are there today.

I do know the results improved a lot when Steve Jobs returned. That is not causality per se but there's a fair chance he caused these impressive results. If not, what did?

Any thoughts?
Cornelius Chan
Cornelius Chan - 4 years ago    Report SPAM
Hold on.

I forgot to talk about balance sheet and cash flow. Balance sheet is cash balance more than current liabilities with total assets 3X total liabilities. An strong balance sheet should keep the stock price from plummeting exorbitantly. Current portion of long term debt = 0. Cash flow from operations in the past 10 years growing by leaps and bounds. Cash flow lovers shouldn't short the stock. And of course their is their huge profit margin.

Ok, as to the cause of results. The fundamentals of the fundamentals if you will ;-)

Yes, you are right of course pointing to the genius of Jobs as being the source from which sprung the amazing growth and subsequent financial track record. He formulated the products he knew people would love. Now that a good chunk of the population has an iProduct, the market is thinking slower growth is in store for the Apple company. So it will be priced for slower growth, but not losses.

Bottom line is this: now is a good time to buy at a lower price shares of a high quality company of known value. The company is not going to fall to pieces like Nokia because they have not missed any major boat of tech advances. Samsung and other companies eating into Apple share is just the law of the jungle. There will be many more years to watch the best companies in tech grow, grow, grow.

Never forget my friends: always buy low and sell high.

SixTwoSix - 4 years ago    Report SPAM
C.W.R..........too much rear view watching.

Buffett can't predict the future cash flows, so he can't value it, so he avoids it.

E.S. .......revenues grow + margins compress = no growth in earnings ........making the company fairly valued.

I'm not saying its a dumb investment.........but it's far from a layup.

Cogitator99 - 4 years ago    Report SPAM
"I think a guy should be able to look at any company's fundamentals on the Gurufocus 10-year financial data pages and decide in under 30-seconds whether it would make a good investment or not."

Far from the truth. Plenty of things can look good until they're not -- have to understand what factors led to a company posting good numbers.
SeaBud premium member - 4 years ago
Buffett wants to be able to go to sleep for 10 years, wake up and be assured the company is fine. I am a long time tech guy and you simply cannot do that with Apple (15 years ago, they were almost bankrupt). Microsoft was once the darling, now they are considered boring (though I have more confidence in microsoft being around and stable in 15 years than Apple because of the enterprise/office biz).

Consumer items like iphones/ipads are fungible long term (ie, no moat) - Apples long term value/moat may be the ecosystem (itunes/icloud). If they complete this system, they can be amazing, but it is to be decided if the ecosystem is defensible. If they try to compete based on the best devices, they will ride the roller coaster of hits and misses (like Blackberry, another belle of the ball at one time), as well as cheaper knock offs.

I actually think tech entities with nice long term moats are Intel/Ibm (Intel b/c billion dollar fabs/design capability is a moat and IBM b/c of enterprise - Buffett says). I don't think Buffett avoids tech b/c he is old, it is because it changes rapidly (10 years if forever in the tech world).
Cdubey - 4 years ago    Report SPAM
At the risk of overgeneralizing, I have learned that the qualitative aspects are much more important than the quantitative ones.

It is a mistake to look at 10 year data and make a decision.
Eric Sprague
Eric Sprague - 4 years ago    Report SPAM

I agree consumer items can be fungible from a hardware perspective. However, Apple has a big advantage on the software side imo. For example, third party studies show that 95% of malware is on android.
AlbertaSunwapta - 4 years ago    Report SPAM
^ and people don't care, they're buying android devices nonetheless. Almost no one thinks I want a unified, intuitive, seamless, secure, relable, near troublefree ecosystem when they buy their first smartphone or tablet. They look at the price and then listen to the incentivized sales person. Apple has essentially succeeded by being the "first" to the market and introducing people to their superior products, whereupon they discover the value or ease of having products that work together.

Moreover, almost no one rates products in these terms. It's still an intangible.

long Apple, long Blackberry (small positions)

Please leave your comment:

Performances of the stocks mentioned by Eric Sprague

User Generated Screeners

althekearoct 17 user defined screen
althekearPE >50th percentile of INDUSTR
althekearLow EV/EBITDA
althekearLynch inspiret Oct 17
althekearsg hk best
althekearDividends Basic
althekearKISS Dividend Strategy
Get WordPress Plugins for easy affiliate links on Stock Tickers and Guru Names | Earn affiliate commissions by embedding GuruFocus Charts
GuruFocus Affiliate Program: Earn up to $400 per referral. ( Learn More)

GF Chat