The dust is still settling from the surprising election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency. Markets tanked on the uncertainty of having Trump in the Oval Office, though they have since begun to bounce back. However, investors are still wondering what Trump's policies could mean for their investments, and that's particularly true for companies Trump singled out specifically during his campaign.
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) took several jabs from Trump over the past year, and there are a few policies that could directly affect the company. It's worth noting that Trump reportedly holds millions of Apple shares, so any of the following proposals would directly impact his portfolio as well. Let's take a look at two key proposals and why Apple is likely to remain steady under President-elect Trump.
Persuading Apple to make more products in the U.S.
Trump said at the same campaign rally where he called for an Apple boycott (over Apple's refusal to unlock an iPhone for the FBI) that he wants the company to bring its manufacturing out of China and into the U.S.
Trump said, "I want to see the day when Apple makes its products on our land. We're going to bring our jobs back to this country."
That's not all that unique of a proposal, though Trump has taken it a bit further by saying he would force jobs to come back to the U.S. by proposing high tariffs on imported consumer goods (which Wired points out would be virtually impossible to pull off).
Apple jobs were actually brought up in the 2012 campaign election as well. And when President Obama met with Silicon Valley leaders in 2011, he asked the late Steve Jobs what it would take to bring iPhone manufacturing jobs back the U.S. Jobs simply replied, "Those jobs aren't coming back.".
So, while U.S. presidents love to pitch the idea of Apple bringing most of its manufacturing back to the states, it's not likely to happen. A New York Times article written four years ago describes a possible reason why:
It isn't just that workers are cheaper abroad. Rather, Apple's executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that "Made in the U.S.A." is no longer a viable option for most Apple products.
Don't expect President-elect Trump to be able change Apple's mind on this one.
Encouraging Apple to repatriate billions in cash
Trump proposed on the campaign trail a plan to offer American companies a tax repatriation fee of just 10%. Right now, many American companies leave their foreign profits in other countries instead of bringing the cash back here because the tax rate for doing so is 35%.
President-elect Trump has said about overseas profits, "We'll bring it back, and it'll be taxed only at the rate of 10% instead of 35%. And who would bring it back at 35%? Obviously nobody, because nobody's doing it..."
Apple, unsurprisingly, wants this as well. The company has lobbied for tax reforms in the past, namely because it has about $200 billion in cash overseas.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the company hasn't brought foreign profits back into the U.S. because the tax rate is simply too high. Earlier this year, Cook said:
When we bring it back, we will pay 35 percent federal tax and then a weighted average across the states that we're in, which is about 5 percent, so think of it as 40 percent. We've said at 40 percent, we're not going to bring it back until there's a fair rate. There's no debate about it.
Considering that Trump is proposing a 10% rate, it seem that this would match up with Cook's "fair rate."
It's still unclear whether or not Trump would be able to do this. But with Republicans gaining control of the House, Senate, and the White House this time around, it seems very possible for them to implement it if they really want to.
That would clearly be a good thing for Apple and its investors. An HSBC economist, Kevin Logan, recently said that a low repatriation rate "could bring a flood of money back into the U.S. that would be available for dividends, share buybacks and possibly for capital investments."
Apple stands on its own
While a Trump presidency could certainly have some affect on Apple, investors should remember that the future of the company is ultimately determined by how well Apple itself performs.
Apple's iPhone revenue fell 13% year over year in the company's fiscal 2016 fourth quarter. iPhones accounted for 60% of Apple's total revenue for the quarter, and its results mark three consecutive quarters of falling profit and revenue for the company. Clearly, Apple has more important things to focus on than what Trump has said.
In an internal memo (obtained by BuzzFeed), Cook wrote to his employees following the election, saying,
While there is discussion today about uncertainties ahead, you can be confident that Apple's North Star hasn't changed. Our products connect people everywhere, and they provide the tools for our customers to do great things to improve their lives and the world at large.
In the wake of Trump's election, Apple's direction remains the same. The company lives and dies based on how well it makes and sells its products and services. And in that regard, nothing has changed.