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We are proud to announce the second investor summit dedicated to the long-term investors in Apple. It’s happening in New York City at The Merceron August 16th from 10am to 10pm.
We will host people interested in discussing the fundamentals of Apple as a business and how it operates as a recurring revenue model.
Titled “The Goose That Lays The Golden Eggs” it was inspired by a blog post from 2013 foreshadowing how human nature instinctively discounts Apple and yet how that nature is mismatched to how Apple actually works.
If you are curious about why Wall Street says “Sell” and Warren Buffet says “Buy” on Apple you might want to spend some time with us.
How to read the company’s performance given its published results. We will review how to build a model of the company’s financials and how it can be used to forecast the next quarter. We can go line-by-line through the income statement.
How to think about the markets Apple considers important. This is the best way to forecast the company’s performance beyond its current portfolio. This requires calibrating your sense of timing of innovations. What is too early, what is too small, what is something where Apple can’t exercise control? Innovation theory is essential to this understanding. If you know where Apple could go next and where it won’t it helps you build patience into your planning.
How to understand Apple’s culture and its resources and processes. This gets into the critical management question that leadership at Apple is concerned with. I’ve had a few conversations with and have some great insight from former managers. Curiously, this is Apple’s greatest competitive advantage and its sustainability is the key “moat” question. Most people don’t even realize that this is the most important question for investors.
How to understand the market’s reaction to Apple. If you understand the three points above it becomes necessary to juxtapose how others see the company. There is a compelling case of asymmetry of information even though “everyone” is watching the same data. I use the fable of “The Goose that Lays the Golden Eggs” to best describe how most people react when they observe Apple. Apple is something which cannot possibly exist and therefore it is fragile and must be treated as a transient system. It leads to deep discounting in the market. This cognitive illusion has an opposite: monopolies are over-valued because they are seen as invulnerable and permanent even though they are brittle. I use antifragility as another metaphor. Many anecdotes from Steve Jobs also indicate that he understood this asymmetry and instilled it in the company. Investors need to understand this dynamic in order to profit from it.
Three months ago Apple provided the following guidance:
As we move ahead into the June quarter,[…] We expect revenue to be between $51.5 billion and $53.5 billion. We expect gross margin to be between 38% and 38.5%. We expect OpEx to be between $7.7 billion and $7.8 billion. We expect OI&E to be about $400 million. And we expect our tax rate to be about 14.5%.
If we aim for a revenue figure close to the upper end of the range ($53.2 billion) and insert all the other figures (split the difference for OpEx) then then the company’s fiscal third quarter looks as follows:
iPhone (units): 43.2 million
iPad (units): 11.6 million
Mac (units): 4.3 million
Services ($): 9.5 billion
Other products ($): 3.5 billion
Gross margin (%): 38.6%
EPS ($): $2.26
This last figure, the earnings per share, is the most speculative because it depends on another guidance that Apple gave: a new $100 billion share repurchase authorization and the fact that it has no time frame. For context, as of end of March the company had completed over $275 billion of its previous $300 billion capital return program and $10 billion remained for share re-purchases in the June quarter. It’s unclear how much of the new authorization will be spent in the quarter.
That spending could indicate the share count but there are issues with this calculation as well. The $2.26 EPS I forecast is based on the assumption that the the same number of shares will be retired as in the previous quarter (about 89 million shares.) However the company spent $23.5 billion on repurchases of 137 million Apple shares through open market transactions (for an average price or $171.53, in-line with the quarter’s trading average).
So why is the number of shares purchased (137 million) so different from the change in shares used to compute earnings per share (89 million)? I actually don’t know.
The question of how many shares are available to calculating EPS is perhaps the last mystery in what is otherwise a very predictable business. The revenue growth and implied iPhone growth are pretty transparent. Incidentally, the EPS I’m forecasting is equivalent to growth of 35.8% y/y. The share price is trading at multiples about half of this growth rate so it’s no wonder the company is spending most of the cash on re-purchases.
How quickly the $100 billion re-purchasing authorization will be used is another question. The effect in concentration of value per share could be profound as shown in the graph above which will have further implications on the “cash zero” direction for the company.