On the heels of Apple's Q1 2015 earnings, the company's stock reached a new all-time high of $120 during today's trading session. While I really don't care too much about short term stock price movements, this particular move in Apple's stock is a reflection of investor optimism following the most monstrous quarter ever seen.
It's true. In case you didn't catch the headlines from Tuesday, Apple's $18 billion quarterly profit for Q1 fiscal 2015 is the largest quarterly profit of any company in the world in all of history.
Plenty has been written following the quarterly report, so instead of rehashing all of the numbers I'd like to focus on what it all means to the stock longer term. I've been a shareholder of Apple since 2007 and haven't traded single share since that time. So when I look at technology companies from an investment angle I really do walk the long term talk. I think attempting to time the market is a recipe for disaster for most people (including myself), and I'd prefer to make decade plus long bets on quality growth companies. Apple still fits the bill for me.
Remember when the iPhone first launched in 2007? During that year Steve Jobs took the stage at Macworld Expo and confidently predicted they'd sell 10 million iPhones in calendar year 2008. There was enormous debate about whether or not Apple would make this goal. I consider myself very much an optimist, and I like hanging around other optimists. I don't think anybody imagined that, 7 years later, Apple would sell more than 74 million iPhones in one single quarter.
But that's what happens when new markets are invented and old markets are disrupted in such an earth-shaking manner. Nobody … not even the optimists … realizes just how big things can get. So here we have Apple having just posted quarterly revenue of $74.6 billion and profit of $18 billion as a result of 74.5 million iPhones, 21.4 million iPads and 5.5 million macs shipped.
Since Tim Cook took over as CEO the company has returned over $100 billion to investors in the form of stock buybacks or dividends. To put this in perspective, that's about 4 times the value of current market capitalization of Netflix, another big disruptive growth stock. Yet Apple still holds $178 billion in cash and equivalents, or $142 billion if you subtract the firm's debt obligations.
Apple is worth $693 billion, significantly more than any other public company. And the stock hardly seems expensive when you consider F2015 earnings are on track to reach $8.46 per share according to analyst estimates. This puts the stock at a price to earnings (P/E) ratio of 14 before even adjusting for the insane cash mountain they've got. The stock price is hardly expensive.
Still, Apple faces risks. Android is the dominant OS on a global basis. Investors worry if hardware prices will collapse, forcing Apple to follow suit, harming their impressive gross margins (and therefore corporate profitability). Yet Apple has dealt with this exact same concern in the Mac market for years, and it's not like the iPhone is new either. Apple has 7 years of history selling iOS products at premium prices.
Analysts and investors also worry if the growth will stop. Apple is huge. They can't keep growing forever, right? Surely not. But who is to say we aren't underestimating the next 7 years just as we pretty much ALL underestimated the last 7?
We have yet to really see what Apple can do with Apple Pay. We have yet to see what developers will come up with to make the Apple Watch compelling to people who've already bought into the Apple ecosystem, or to convince new people to join it. The iPad has been a highly successful product, but we've barely scratched the surface of what I think it could do in the hands of enterprise users, and I look forward to seeing what the Apple does with IBM in the coming years.
Speaking of iPad, when I think about the rumours around an iPad Pro form factor, I can't help but wonder how long it will be (if it happens) before the iPad and Macbook collide. Will most people need a OS X device in 5-7 years? Or will iOS have improved so much that we can open multiple windows, wirelessly connect to large displays when appropriate, seamlessly integrate with bluetooth keyboards and trackpads for apps that require this, etc? Maybe the average buyer who isn't coding, isn't doing 3D animation or Ultra HD video editing doesn't need a Macbook, but gets buy with a $499 iPad. It doesn't seem that crazy to me.
I also can't help wondering what else Apple could do to speed up disruption in the technology market. How much faster could the world be pushed towards streaming media and cutting their cable TV subscription if Apple did something along the lines of buying Netflix? And why stop there? Take the Apple TV product and turn it into an awesome video gaming device where a Netflix-like subscription model gets you unlimited access to games for a small monthly fee.
I'm just thinking out loud here. I have no idea if any of this will happen. But it does seem clear to me that Apple is on the right track, is executing well, and still has incredible potential to innovate and grow. Their $18 billion profit in Q1 is the current proof, and I can't wait to see what's next.