Apple (AAPL -1.51%) is, without a doubt, one of the most innovative technology companies in the world. It practically invented the modern smartphone and tablet computers, and it was the first company to truly popularize the smartwatch, with the Apple Watch. The company is increasingly pushing into the services market (e.g., music streaming and original video content), too, though it's more of a follower in these areas than it is a leader -- at least right now.
Apple's culture of innovation, execution, and keen business sense has allowed it to become the most valuable technology stock in the world, sporting a market capitalization of around $915 billion. The stock, as of this writing, most recently closed at around $186 per share.
I'd like to go over three things that could push Apple stock to $200 per share and possibly beyond over the next year.
1. Improving iPhone business
Last year, Apple introduced three new iPhones -- iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X. The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus were effectively upgraded versions of the current models, while the iPhone X represented an all-new version that incorporated many new design elements and technologies. It was also Apple's most expensive iPhone in years, costing customers $999 for the baseline model and $1,149 for the variant with upgraded storage.
Although Apple's iPhone unit shipment growth story this year wasn't particularly exciting, likely due in part to a slackening smartphone market and to the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus being relatively modest upgrades, the average selling price story sure has been. During the first half of Apple's current fiscal year, its iPhone revenue was up 14% even though unit shipment volumes were roughly flat .
Based on all of the rumors and speculation that have been published about this year's upcoming iPhone lineup, it looks like the company is set to strengthen its offerings at lower price points while improving the competitiveness of its high-end offerings by introducing a version of the current iPhone X, but with a jumbo-sized 6.5-inch display.
I think this new lineup can help Apple improve its unit shipment volumes (due to accelerated market segment share gains) while preserving or even building upon the average-selling-price progress that it seems to have made so far in the current iPhone product cycle.
Another solid revenue increase for Apple's highly lucrative iPhone business, which made up 67% of the company's revenue during the first half of its fiscal year, would translate into significant overall revenue and profit growth for the company -- music to shareholders' ears.
2. The services growth story
Although Apple's iPhone business is large, extremely profitable, and likely to be the company's most important business for years, if not decades, to come, the company hasn't been kicking back and milking that success story -- it's trying to diversify its business beyond the iPhone because the iPhone business can't grow in perpetuity.
The most successful of Apple's non-iPhone growth stories is its services business, which includes, among other things, revenue from App Store sales, revenue related to its AppleCare extended warranties, Apple Music, and music/video content sales.
Last quarter, Apple's services business generated $9.19 billion in sales -- handily dwarfing all of Apple's other business segments aside from the iPhone. Moreover, that segment was Apple's second-fastest-growing, delivering 31% revenue growth (the fastest-growing segment was Apple's much smaller "other products" segment, which includes Apple Watch and accessories sales).
There's no sign that Apple's services business is slowing down -- if anything, the growth rate has been consistently high for several quarters now. Apple doesn't disclose the profitability of each of its business segments, but I'd also imagine that this segment is, on balance, quite profitable with better-than-average gross profit margins (since software and services sales have relatively low cost of goods sold attached to them, unlike hardware sales).
As long as Apple's services business continues to exhibit robust growth, shareholders should be quite excited, as the long-term revenue and profit potential is quite significant.
3. Stock buyback
Finally, Apple announced a $100 billion share repurchase authorization alongside its fiscal second-quarter earnings results. As I wrote earlier, this buyback isn't something that would fundamentally change my view as to whether to invest in Apple stock or not, but I do concede that it could have a very real positive impact on the share price as it's executed.
If Apple buys back $100 billion worth of stock at roughly current prices, the company would be able to retire roughly 11% of its current shares outstanding. That's going to have the effect of more than offsetting the typical share dilution that share-based compensation drives and could lead to a sizable earnings-per-share boost, which could help push the stock higher.