Earlier this week I wrote a piece on Seeking Alpha that outlined why I believe investors are likely to value Apple (AAPL) shares similarly to other blue chip consumer brands, which would mean a valuation of 10-12 times trailing cash flow (defined as EV/EBITDA). Bulls on the stock have a multitude of reasons why Apple should trade at a premium, but in recent quarters the market has disagreed. In fact, even as Apple stock has broken out to new highs, setting a new market value record in the process, AAPL shares fetch about 9 times trailing cash flow (at the current quote of $665), a discount to other superb consumer brands.
If fair value is somewhere in the 10-12 times cash flow range, that would equate to $725-$850 per share. That would mean fair value is somewhere between 10% and 25% above current levels. That is why I continue to hold the stock, despite its enormous run-up lately.
In terms of future potential, I continue to be intrigued by the possible launch of an Apple TV set. When I think of the large market opportunities for Apple, those that can really move the needle for a company worth more than $600 billion, the television market is the only one they have yet to target that has real appeal. Outside of desktop, laptop, and tablet computers, phones, music players, and televisions, I am not sure where else Apple could find significant future expansion potential (although I am sure they would disagree and are looking for some already). After launching a TV, I think Apple’s strong growth days might fade. Assuming the stock traded in line with other blue chips at that point, I would likely look for an exit point.
I have not sold yet, mainly because a TV is still not here (some are even arguing they aren’t going to make one, just a set-top box) and the stock’s valuation on current products, at 9 times cash flow, is still below that of other large cap blue chips. So while I am not as bullish as some, I still see room to run for the stock.
Full Disclosure: Long Apple at the time of writing, but positions may change at any time