I made some pretty outlandish calls last week. Then I invited you to let me have it. More than 200 of you wrote in. Yet in what had to be the ultimate slap to the contrarian in me, most of the emails were supportive. More than a few of you actually agreed with me.
I mean, sure, I'll take the sweetness anywhere I can find it these days, but I didn't expect for so many of you to kill me with kindness. I was picking a fight and you came armed with switchblade corsages. It's as if I were a girl, slaving away, sewing the mother of all homecoming dance dresses -- only to show up and find that everyone was wearing the same design.
Where's the kaboom? There was supposed to be an Earth-shattering Kaboom! Or at the very least a dangling bucket of blood or an admission that pretending to like me was part of some twisted bet with the popular kids.
Yet some of you did come through with the counterarguments I craved. From scalding venom to the well-reasoned rebuttals, I appreciate the feedback. You made this week's column that much easier to scribe.
So as I promised last week, let's go back over my five predictions and what some of you had to say. (Your comments are in italics.)
Shares of Apple will fall in 2005
Quite a few of you thought I was way off base in claiming that shares of Apple Computer (Nasdaq: AAPL ) had peaked and were headed for a breather.
By the way, is that about the same as you predicted for Apple last year? I'm sure any investors who avoided buying Apple early last year are glad they bought into the anti-Apple bias that goes 'round.
Sorry, Phil. I've been a big fan of Apple and it wasn't until just this month that the valuation concerns got to me. Honest. Where was I last year? I was here, just as iPod sales were starting to eclipse the number of Mac units being sold. "This may all ultimately grow the company's computer business again," I wrote last year. "As traffic continues to grow at Apple's site and with more consumers loading up on Apple products, it will give the company a huge audience to market to." The stock closed at $22.85 the day I wrote that contrarianly bullish prediction. I think it pretty much hit the mark.
I was taken to task for glossing over Apple's cash-rich balance sheet -- now sporting nearly $16 a share -- in using the company's rich P/E multiple as a basis for valuation. Steve wrote in to proclaim accurately that Apple's forward earnings multiple drops from 33 to 25 if we back out the cash to arrive at enterprise value. It's a valid point, but the one common trap here is that if you are going to value a company on an enterprise value basis, it is only be fair to subtract interest income generated from that cash. In Apple's case it's not an insignificant sum: $53 million of Apple's pre-tax profits of $383 million last year came from the interest income generated by its idle cash. With rising rates, the company will generate more than twice that sum in interest income in fiscal 2005.
I don't think you've taken into consideration the millions of boomers who are just now getting around to getting their iPods. All my students have them, and I'm going to be part of the second wave of customers.
I hear you, Carol. While the baby boomers may not be as passionate about buying music as the young 'uns, they certainly have the disposable income to make a difference and the common sense to do so legally through storefronts like Apple's.
I realize that I may be brilliantly wrong with this one. As Dave pointed out in another email, Apple stock is technically and fundamentally strong right now and, while I may not be too excited about the new product lines, the company is certainly commanding a larger audience to which they can be marketed. But we'll see. The year is young.
Sirius will be signing up more new users than XM by year's end
Most of the knocks here were related to Howard Stern. Was Sirius Satellite Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI ) overpaying in signing a five-year, $500 million deal with someone who may have a passionate listener base, but may alienate others.
I wonder if all the Bible thumpers who got Sirius for EWTN canceled when Stern announced?
I don't see it that way at all, Jeff. It's like saying that someone won't subscribe to cable television because she doesn't like The Sopranos or dog show competitions on Animal Planet. When I decided to become a Sirius subscriber last month, I didn't stop at channel 37 -- bluegrass music around the clock -- or the Elvis Presley station and balk just because they weren't up my alley. That's the beauty of satellite radio. I imagine that bluegrass fans will sign up even as I tune in to my alternative rock favorites in the 20s. While I don't know how many of Stern's more than 10 million loyal listeners will migrate to Sirius to hear him come next January, I feel the number will be substantial and that it won't affect those who turn to Sirius for its more than a hundred other stations.
Some argued that XM Satellite Radio (Nasdaq: XMSR ) simply has too big a lead and has innovative receivers hitting the market as well as a much stronger connection in the automotive industry and it's just the cheaper alternative. Sirius is making the literal inroads. Its deal with Ford (NYSE: F ) earlier this month is expected to tack on a million more new subscribers over the next two years. I also see Sirius costing $3 more as a positive. On the simplest of levels it attracts subscribers who are less price-sensitive, and that will be a major reason why advertisers will flock over as the migration to satellite radio continues.
Krispy Kreme will bounce back
No way, Jose. This is not a "must have" purchase, even as Starbucks is to some. Once you grasp that, you can understand why the books had to be cooked to make this product seem mystical. I don't think they'll make it back. If you need more evidence, just look at Wonder Bread and Twinkies. Chapter 11.
Lenny wasn't the only one who figured that I was glazed and confused with this call. Gigi was even more graphic.
The "blood" you see on the ground is only from a vein. You'll soon see the result of the "artery" that bleeds once the "protective band-aid" drops off.
I realize that the deck is stacked against the company. Even with CEO Scott Livengood stepping down, Krispy Kreme (NYSE: KKD ) has a tall order to fill, but I stand by my suggestions back in May, when I wrote about how Krispy Kreme could be saved. I do think most of the bad news is out there. Any whiff of the company taking the right steps to salvage the brand won't rock the stock back to new highs, but it will drag it out of the single digits by the end of the year.
TiVo will bounce back
Ray from Canada voiced a popular argument about the shortcomings of TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO ) .
Consumers can now get TiVo functionality from a wide variety of sources, some of them don't even involve a subscription fee or have the fee rolled into the bill for content.
True, Ray, the cable and satellite providers who are rolling out their own digital video recorders (DVRs) are clearly making things difficult for TiVo.
As consumers, we are bombarded with ads in our monthly bills from either cable or satellite offering free DVRs or cheap package deals. One thing we know is that if we order a DVR from our local provider, it will be installed, tested and guaranteed to work within the existing system. Tivo will have a hard time competing with the content providers and will gradually lose market share.
Fair point, Jim. No one said that TiVo got to $4 and change by accident. While it is the one brand that everyone knows in this space, the company will need to upgrade its offerings and services to differentiate itself. TiVo is rich in patents and has a history of innovation. I'm not ready to write the company off.
Amazon won't enter the DVD rental market alone
While I didn't get much of an argument with this call, some did write to express the opinion that Amazon's (Nasdaq: AMZN ) presence ultimately won't matter, since the sector itself is doomed.
You know darned well Bill Gates (or somebody) is going to be streaming movies into our living room via wireless broadband at a cheaper rate (and supplanting cablevision, too!) in the near future. Instead of watching tele-vision, we'll be watching MS-vision.
While Neil is right in that movie downloads should gradually become a reality, I don't see how the major DVD rental players won't play a role in that migration. They already have the movie buffs with the disposable income all lined up. Nearly 6 million homes will belong to a DVD rental-by-mail service by the end of the year -- 8 million by the end of next year.
That, incidentally, is yet another reason why I think Amazon won't go it alone. With the market leader reporting the lowest churn rate in its history earlier this week and the second-largest player practically giving its service away, Amazon just won't fit in unless it aligns itself with one or the other to take it out of the equation.
Later this week I will try to get back to everyone who wrote in. Yes, all of you. You took the time to share your thought, and even if I didn't single out your comments specifically, they collectively helped shape this article.
Next time I ask you to tell me I'm wrong I will not doubt your ability to live up to your side of the bargain. While I was the one who perched myself on the dunk tank, it was all of you that ultimately made the biggest splash. Thanks.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz really will try to write back to everyone. He usually does. He owns shares in Netflix but not in any of the other companies mentioned in this story. He is also a member of theRule Breakersanalytical team, where dunk tanks are often flooded out by the promise of tomorrow. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.