This Apple Buyout Makes a Little Sense

Pondering what Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) can or should do with all that cash it's sitting on is a sport in itself these days. After all, there's not a lot that $121 billion can't buy. Let's look at the latest Apple acquisition rumor and see if it makes any bit of sense.

A match made in...?
Apple set its mapping plans into motion many years ago. Unfortunately, even after all that time and money, the new service still wasn't quite ready for prime time and Apple Maps has tarnished the company's reputation.

One of Apple's partners for mapping data is TomTom (NASDAQOTH: TMOAF  ) . Data was always the key piece of the mapping puzzle that would be the hardest to substitute when the Mac maker ditched Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) , but TomTom was up for the task. That's why Rabobank analyst Hans Slob thinks that Apple should swoop in and pick up TomTom.

Slob pegs the odds of such a move at 30%, and thinks that Apple's offer could reach as high as 10 euros (approximately $13) per share. Following the speculation, TomTom soared up to 4.12 euros (approximately $5.50) in trading in Amsterdam. That means the high end of Slob's estimates still represents substantial upside even after the jump.

The analyst figures that TomTom needs cash and Apple needs mapping expertise, so a hookup could be a match made in heaven. In that sense, the possibility makes a little bit of sense conceptually. But that's about it, since it makes no sense strategically or financially.

Does it fit the bill?
At current prices, TomTom is valued at around $1.1 billion. At 10 euros per share, that figure climbs all the way up to roughly $2.9 billion. That valuation is already out of Apple's typical acquisition range, which typically tops out around $500 million.

Apple has a very specific acquisition strategy. The company typically looks for small acquisitions that include highly specialized technology that it can integrate into its future products. Think about the chip shops P.A. Semi and Intrinsity for $278 million and $121 million, respectively. There was Siri for $200 million or Quattro Wireless for $275 million. Don't forget about AuthenTec for $356 million just this year.

Growing revenue has never been the goal of an Apple acquisition. In fact, Apple usually scales down the business operations of acquisitions as it focuses on the parts it wants, which is another reason why it goes for smaller companies, since their revenues are rounding errors within Apple's consolidated results and no one would notice their absence.

TomTom's full-year guidance is targeting $1.4 billion in revenue for 2012. TomTom's business has four operating divisions, including partnerships with automakers as well as the stand-alone GPS units it still sells. Hardware sales were 62% of sales last quarter. These aren't businesses that Apple wants to buy and then shutter.

It may be true that TomTom could use the money, but that's hardly Apple's problem. For example, operating cash flow was down 29% last quarter and the Dutch company has about $179 million in cash and equivalents.

Stop me if you've heard this one before
These are all the same reasons why it never would have made sense for Apple to acquire Nuance Communications (NASDAQ: NUAN  ) . Speculation swirled a couple years back when Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who hasn't been meaningfully involved in Apple affairs in many years, incorrectly said Apple had bought the voice specialist. That sent Nuance shares to multiyear highs at the time, only to have Wozniak backtrack for misspeaking.

Nuance was a similar situation. The company is a technology partner for Apple, providing voice recognition services, but again would have cost Apple several billion dollars for a company already involved in many other areas where Apple has no interest, like medical transcription. Why buy when Apple can get what it needs through licensing and strategic partnerships?

TomTom is but one of many partners Apple is tapping for mapping data. Investors can even look through a list of them right here. That includes companies like DigitalGlobe (NYSE: DGI  ) for satellite imagery data, CoreLogic (NYSE: CLGX  ) for property parcel data, and Yelp (NYSE: YELP  ) for reviews, among many others.

Just because Apple maps faces legitimate challenges doesn't mean the company is going to go out and start buying these data partners. DigitalGlobe is a $1.2 billion company and should do about $405 million in sales this year. Yelp would already be a stretch before you consider its $1.2 billion valuation at 10 times sales. Besides, Apple has accepted it's not great at social, so it partners with companies like Facebook (NASDAQ: FB  ) and Yelp for the social aspects.

Sorry, TomTom investors. Apple's not buying you.

Apple's focus has always been a key strength for the company, among others. That's helped it create global opportunities and generate incredible growth for investors over the years, but it's not over yet. Senior tech analyst Eric Bleeker and I dig in to all things Apple in The Motley Fool's new Apple research service. Members get a comprehensive thesis along with several bonus reports and regular updates. Get started by clicking here.

Read/Post Comments (1) | Recommend This Article (4)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2012, at 12:07 PM, RifRaf100 wrote:

    There are fundamental differences though between an IVR technology and Digital mapping. IVR is still only a component product which a supplier may licence from one company or another (based on accuracy of speech to text or vice versa. Building a mapping platform on which a company such as Apple can derive services to its users requires close integration between device and map. GPS/GSM probes are used not only for offering the services but also for building a better product... it was the mapshare technology which led TT to but Tele Atlas for $4bn... I do not believe that Apple would have to buy all of TT (Hardware/Business Solutions) as they could single out the mapping part of the company. Without such an acquisition, it will take Apple some 6 years to catchup with where Google are today... rest assured that Google will not stand still!

Add your comment.

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 2150416, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 10/24/2016 8:04:07 PM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Today's Market

updated Moments ago Sponsored by:
DOW 18,223.03 77.32 0.43%
S&P 500 2,151.33 10.17 0.47%
NASD 5,309.83 52.43 1.00%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes

Related Tickers

10/24/2016 4:00 PM
AAPL $117.65 Up +1.05 +0.90%
Apple CAPS Rating: ****
CLGX $39.31 Up +0.84 +2.18%
CoreLogic CAPS Rating: **
DGI $26.25 Down +0.00 +0.00%
DigitalGlobe CAPS Rating: **
FB $133.28 Up +1.21 +0.92%
Facebook CAPS Rating: ***
GOOGL $835.74 Up +11.68 +1.42%
Alphabet (A shares… CAPS Rating: *****
NUAN $13.91 Up +0.06 +0.43%
Nuance Communicati… CAPS Rating: ****
YELP $34.48 Up +1.08 +3.23%
Yelp CAPS Rating: **