On Friday AAPL closed New York trading at $326.35, down $4.88 on the day. At that price Apple is trading at a price-earnings multiple of 15.55 times trailing 12-month earnings of $20.99 per share. This lowly valuation includes more than $70 per share in cash on Apple's balance sheet and is in the context of an earnings per share growth rate of 83.2% in the first six months of the current fiscal year.
On June 12th I published my updated 12-month price target for AAPL of $590 per share. At Friday's closing price of $326.35 a $590 target price might seem ambitious. It's an anticipated 80% rise in the share price in roughly 12 months. But as I will detail in this article, AAPL is trading not only at a low historical p/e multiple since the elimination of deferred revenue accounting on the iPhone in FQ1 2010, but is also trading significantly below the current price targets of the Wall Street pros.
AAPL: The Coiled Spring
For this article I asked Jeff Fosberg of the Apple Finance Board to update his popular "coiled spring" graphic to reflect Friday's closing prices for three popular publicly traded enterprises: Amazon, Apple and Netflix. The graphic compares the valuations of the three companies based on current price-earnings multiples and the gap between the current median price target from Wall Street analysts and Friday's closing prices.
I do not view price-earnings multiples as an effective means to compare companies in dissimilar industries. Amazon, Apple and Netflix do not compete directly in their respective core markets and Apple's hardware products are revenue conduits for products and services offered by Amazon and Netflix. The markets for the Amazon Kindle and the Apple iPad only partially overlap. However, comparing the gap between current trading prices and Wall Street price targets makes for a compelling contrast between the valuations of the three companies.
No matter the 82.3% rise in eps in the first six months of Apple's current fiscal year, the average estimate among analysts calls for eps in FY2011 (ending in late September) of $24.76 versus $15.15 in FY2010, a gain of 63.4% with less than six months remaining in the one-year period. For FY2012 the current average eps estimate of $28.72 represents only a 16% gain above the estimated current fiscal year eps performance.