There's been an endless debate for the past few months over whether or not Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) is cheap. The company's traditional valuation metrics are among the lowest in the entire stock market, but bears point to growth deceleration and margin contraction as justifications for declining trading multiples.
Well, $50 billion says Apple is cheap.
That's how much Apple is boosting its current share repurchase program by, and represents the vast majority of the total increase in planned capital returns through 2015. Apple's initial plan unveiled last year included $10 billion in repurchase authorization, and the new total is $60 billion. To date, Apple has only repurchased $2 billion of stock (4 million shares), which still leaves a massive $58 billion budget for Apple to buy back shares.
That could buy approximately 143 million shares at current prices, or over 15% of all shares currently outstanding. Realistically, these repurchases will take place through the end of 2015 and there will also inevitably be some dilution related to equity compensation, but the point is this is an enormous vote of confidence.
Apple is now up to $144.7 billion in total cash, which translates into $154 per share. Factoring in the new earnings figures and cash balance, Apple now trades at six times earnings excluding cash. At its current valuation, cash comprises nearly 40% of its market cap. That's what I call cheap.
Other companies sometimes get flak for ill-timed buyback programs. For example, Netflix effectively repurchased shares for $222 in 2011, only to sell them back to the market just months later for $70. That's quite a bad trade, but shares were trading around 80 times earnings at the time so it was reasonable for some skeptics to question the repurchase program.
If you don't believe me that Apple is cheap, believe Tim Cook, because $50 billion speaks pretty loudly. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is.
The debate continues: Is Apple a buy? The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple, and what opportunities are left for the company (and your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.