We cover the valuation question regarding Apple and tech in general as seen through investors’ eyes. This discussion ranges a bit on P/E compression and the psychology of investors–which might change with Apple TV.
We also look at who is most vulnerable in the ongoing mobile computing disruption and who are the up-and-coming challengers. Finally, I introduce the Perspective app which I used for all my live presentations.
I’ll post more about Perspective in the future as it will be my platform for publishing complex or rich data.
via 5by5 | The Critical Path #46: The Next Victim.
There is no shortage of information about what happens to companies in distress. The cause of distress varies widely and is often not well understood but the actions and symptoms of distress are very consistent. We can look at examples in each industry, even in each product category for a rich set of distressed company data.
For over a year I’ve been chronicling the decline of incumbents in the mobile phone industry. However, decline cannot continue indefinitely. At some point a company “exits” the industry. Either through a sale or divestiture or, rarely bankruptcy. The list of exits is already long. The length and the correlation between exit and the lack of recovery implies that Nokia will also exit.
But how, exactly?
Will Nokia be acquired? If so, then by whom? What other options exist? How can we analyze this?
Yesterday I presented the estimated Android income statement vis-à-vis Apple’s income statement. In this post I’ll compare Android as a part of Google’s overall business.
Recall that Google has already been compared in terms of overall revenue, growth and profitability to Apple and Microsoft here. The argument can be made that mobility has not yet had a measurable impact on Google (certainly not noteworthy enough to be reported by management).
The impact on Google of Android can be shown in the following diagram:
I used color coding to identify non-Android (Green) and Android (Brown) segments of the business. Overall, Android could amount to about 3.5% of total Google revenues and about 5% of operating earnings.
The following charts show Google and Microsoft revenues and operating income:
Both companies showed healthy growth. Revenues: Microsoft 6%, Google 24%. Operating Income: Microsoft 12%, Google 48%. Google had a particularly weak margin Q1 2011 so its income growth appears very strong.
The surprise in Microsoft’s performance was
Nielsen has already noted that more than half of US consumers have smartphones. comScore’s data seems to point to that threshold being crossed sometime this year.
If that point is crossed then it would mark the smartphone as one of the most rapidly adopted consumer technologies of all time. I plotted the time it took for a set of technologies to reach 50% penetration of US households.
I also showed the time it took for some of the technologies to reach 80% penetration.
Apple’s share price has increased rapidly in the last few weeks. The rise to $600 was swift and broke the pattern of slow growth the the stock was able to obtain over the past few years. The level, however, shouldn’t have been a complete surprise.
I think Apple is going to $600…It’s really not that complicated. Apple has a number of key drivers in its business model which have yet to be properly priced into the stock because I think it’s very cheap at this level.
-Stephen Coleman, chief investment officer at Daedalus Capital
This prediction was made October 26, 2007. On that date Apple’s share price closed at $184.7. It may have seemed like a bold bet, but as Coleman noted, the reason why it would reach $600 was easy to spot.
The real story on how I get to that valuation doesn’t even involve the sale of (the Leopard operating system) or the growth in the Mac business. How I get there is through the iPhone itself.
What was not easy to tell was when it would reach $600.
The phenomenon we call business disruption could benefit from a different name. Although it signifies a disturbance or an interruption in an industry, it’s much more than that.
The nominal definition I work with is that disruption is the “transfer of wealth in an industry from dominant incumbents to disadvantaged entrants.” It’s a convenient definition because it’s brief, it puts the emphasis on economic value and because it alludes to a reversal of fortune and the implied extraordinariness.
However, there are several nuances lost and contradictions ignored in this definition. I want to enumerate them here and now:
- Although in a disruption there is a transfer of wealth, that wealth is not necessarily conserved. An industry that undergoes a disruption often emerges larger, more productive or more influential. Disruption typically creates net growth.
- Although extraordinary and spectacular it is also very commonplace. Disruption is not rare. In fact, it rarely fails to happen. One could even say that if it does fail to happen, it’s a symptom of an industry in crisis.
- Being so common, it can be seen as a regular occurrence. But if the regularity of disruption can be considered to have a clock cycle, its frequency is increasing.
- Disruption in the literal sense implies discomfort, displacement and even destruction. But it’s necessary to the health of any economy. The analogy to biology is that death is the most important thing in life.
- Although only recently characterized and studied in cases set in the past century, the pattern is evident throughout history.
I’ve offered examples of these consequences or side-effects of disruption but I’ll emphasize once more the example I’m most familiar with. To illustrate the primary definition, the AMP index is a measure of the success of one company relative to a set of peers in the mobile phone industry. It’s the average of four market shares: mobile phone units, smartphone units, revenues and operating profits.
This chart shows the shift in AMP index values for the competitors whose data is public and which make up the vast majority of units sold:
Apple’s valuation since October 2008 has been very highly correlated to its cash (R-squared of 0.91). This tight relationship to Apple’s value is shown in the chart below:
(The chart shows weekly, ending each Friday, share price (vertical axis) vs. interpolated weekly cash per share (horizontal axis) assuming linear growth between quarterly announcements. Share price data is current as of last Friday (Feb. 10) though cash per share is based on announcement date and hence delayed by about three weeks.)
I noted this relationship in May 2011 and followed up in September 2011. With current cash per share reaching
$95 to $100 $103.66 it seems that the share price should be around $500 any time now.
As Apple’s extraordinarily low valuation is being more widely noted, explanatory hypotheses are proliferating. Everyone seems to have an opinion. Some explanations come in and out of fashion. Others are reliable old clichés. We’ve seen liquidity issues with large funds forced to sell, “too much cash”, management transitions, an impending loss of mojo, share price too high to afford, “law of large numbers”, and that old chestnut, competition. None of these satisfy. They don’t explain why reliable growth is not valuable. And reliability is indeed what Apple offers in spades. Consider the following chart:
Note that the scale is logarithmic so that the growth patterns can be seen clearly.
When asked where Apple’s growth will come from, most analysts or observers will cite new products. As long as there are new products, then there is growth. Conversely, if there are no new products, then there will be no growth. This is such a commonly held belief that it’s axiomatic: Apple is being valued based on short-term foreseeable growth.
To be more precise, analysts value the wave of growth of every new product and heavily discount the post-growth phase assuming commoditization. There is no value assigned to Apple for extending market reach to the mass market.
Consider: Analysts currently forecast an operating income (or EBIT) of $43.3bn for 2012 and $49.7bn for 2013. That implies growth of 28% in 2012 and 15% in 2013. These growth rates are modest in light of Apple’s recent historic growth and especially 84% in 2011 on EBIT level. Much of this growth has been due to iPhone which quickly captured 4% market share in four years. To suggest 15% growth in 2013 is to suggest that Apple will not increase its phone market share by an appreciable amount. The implicit assumption in that growth figure alone is that Apple will remain a niche player.