Eddy Elfenbein, who writes about stocks at Crossing Wall Street and was named by CNNMoney as "the best buy-and-hold blogger" on the Web, told me in an interview that "if something gets a lot of attention almost by definition I'm not going to be interested in it." So I wondered how he felt about Apple, which gets more attention than nearly any other stock in the world.
In an hourlong interview last week in Washington, D.C., Elfenbein and I talked Apple, among other topics. Far from a skeptic, he compares Apple's cash-generating abilities to ... the mafia. Watch our conversation here (run time: 2:39), or read the transcript below:
Eddy Elfenbein: So, Facebook gets a lot of attention. If something gets a lot of attention almost by definition I'm not going to be interested in it.
Brian Richards: That segues nicely to Apple.
Elfenbein: Never heard of it.
Richards: [laughs] Might be the only company …
Elfenbein: The name means nothing to me.
Richards: It's a fruit. [laughs]
Elfenbein: I would say it's the Beatles' company. Actually I like Apple. Apple is a -- words almost fail me -- it's a titanically profitable company. They have a huge amount of cash. Just their bank account is I think $120 billion. That's larger than most banks. And that's just their bank account.
Apple can buy every single team in the NFL, every single team in the NHL, every single team in the NBA, and every single team in major league baseball. They can buy every single team and they still have cash left over. It doesn't make a dent at all. They don't have to borrow at all.
So let's just look at this. Let's just break down the math to see what Apple's like. Well you know it's about say $570 a share, in that ballpark. The cash is I think about $115. So, back of the envelope, let's just knock that out. It's not exactly how we can do this, but let's just do it for the sake right now.
So that brings us down to around $450. The company is going to make about $45 a share this year. We know that pretty well. This isn't following some five-year line that who knows what has come up with. We're pretty sure that's what they're going to do. So that means they're going for about 10 times earnings. Based on just the operations of the company, that's yielding about 10% and the company just always has blown away earnings. They purposely play a game.
But it's such a remarkably profitable enterprise, and they generate cash to such… I mean I can't think of anyone -- outside of the mafia -- I can't think of any organization where the profit margins just flow in like that. But I like Apple. I do like Apple.