Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) may be one of the largest companies on the planet, but it continues to be a battleground stock for tech investors. With the tech giant poised to report earnings on July 22, is the stock a buy, sell, or hold today? We asked three of our top tech analysts to reveal their thoughts on Apple before the company reveals its results.
Evan Niu: Apple has come back in favor with investor sentiment in a big way over the past year. While it has long traded at a discount to the S&P 500, the valuation remains compelling given the momentum that it's regaining.
If we look at some of the reasons investors were so pessimistic about Apple, many of those have largely been addressed.
- Concerns about high-end smartphone saturation: This remains relatively true, but it appears that Apple is taking share from Samsung in the high end. At the same time, Apple's expected move to larger phones will further strengthen its position with premium smartphones. Meanwhile, Apple continues to expand mid-range offerings.
- Concerns about margin contraction: Gross margins briefly dipped below 37% last year. While most smartphone OEMs would love margins like that, Apple investors didn't like the downward trend. Apple posted surprisingly strong margins last quarter. Gross margin may see some downward pressure once the new iPhones are released, since redesigned products start at the height of their cost curves, but overall margins have definitely stabilized.
- Concerns about too much cash: Tim Cook has kept his word with Apple's aggressive capital return program, and focusing on repurchasing shares over dividends is more beneficial to shareholders in the long term. Issuing debt reduces overall cost of capital, while using that cash for repurchases delivers significant earnings accretion.
The iPhone's momentum on China Mobile will probably help carry iPhone sales through the summer, and then Apple will unleash a slew of new products in the fall. Street analysts are also turning bullish again, which will also amplify improving sentiment. Apple looks like an attractive buy right now.
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