One of the key strategies for successful investing is building a well-diversified, balanced portfolio of 25 to 30 stocks and holding them for the long term. Yet every investor has to start somewhere, and laying out the funds for that many stocks at once isn't necessarily practical.
If I had to start over today, I'd look for a company with a strong track record of growth, the ability to ride out an economic storm, and a history of looking out for its shareholders. That's why I think Apple (AAPL 1.48%) is a great pick.
The story in a nutshell
Apple is among the most successful consumer product companies in the world, as a result of a number of groundbreaking products that have become household names. Far from a one-trick pony, Apple continues to innovate with its existing products while also looking for the "next big thing." The company is arguably the most successful smartphone maker out there but augments that success with a vast array of consumer products and a growing battery of services.
Often imitated but never replicated, Apple commands impressive market share with many of its products. This has resulted in a fortresslike balance sheet, while also allowing for generous returns to shareholders. The company's products are among the most recognizable and well-loved worldwide, which should help the company continue to generate market-beating returns for years to come.
Built on the iconic iPhone
The 800-pound gorilla in the room is the iPhone. While it wasn't Apple's first wildly successful product (I'm looking at you, iPod), it was the one that catapulted Apple to its current level of fame and fortune.
The iPhone commands the largest market share of any smartphone in the U.S. and is No. 2 worldwide (occasionally taking the top spot). There are currently 1 billion active iPhones in use around the globe, and that number continues to grow.
Apple recently launched the new iPhone 14, which has all the makings of another incredibly prosperous device. Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives points to long and growing wait times for shipping, as some models have delivery dates ranging from four to six weeks. This points to strong demand for the latest version of the company's flagship device. Furthermore, Ives estimates that roughly 240 million iPhone users have not upgraded their phones over the past 3 1/2 years, leading to robust pent-up demand even in the face of economic headwinds.
It's worth noting that the iPhone is responsible for the lion's share of Apple's sales, generating nearly 54% of revenue during the first nine months of fiscal 2022 (ended June 25). This could represent a risk if users were ever to fall out of love with the iPhone.
More than just the iPhone
Beyond the iPhone, Apple has a growing list of products and services that generate nearly half the company's sales. Mac, the Apple computer that started it all, has a strong and loyal following responsible for 15% of all personal computer shipments in the U.S. The iPad, the company's notebook, is the market leader and commands 31% of the global tablet market.
Likewise, the Apple Watch dominates the market, with a 36% share, selling more than three times as many smartwatches as its nearest competitor. The tech titan is also a clear leader in the headphone market, as nearly 50% of consumers in the U.S. use Apple's AirPods or Beats headphones.
It all started with the App Store and iTunes, but Apple's service offerings are vast and growing. The list includes award-winning programming on Apple TV+, high-resolution audio on Apple Music, and secure payments with Apple Wallet. There are also mobile games on Apple Arcade, news on Apple News+, workouts on Apple Fitness+, digital storage on iCloud, and more. Services has been among Apple's fastest-growing segments in recent years, up nearly 18% year over year during the first nine months of fiscal 2022.
This large and growing list of category-leading products and services provides a level of security that Apple will continue to generate stable results for years to come.
Strong shareholder returns
Apple ranks high on the list of shareholder-friendly companies, benefiting investors in more ways than one.
First, it began paying a dividend again in 2012, and since then has amassed a stellar track record. What began as a meager payout of a split-adjusted $0.095 has surged 143% in just 10 years. While its yield is still a relatively low 0.6%, that's a function of Apple's growing stock price, which has gained more than 500% over the past decade -- even after the impact of the recent bear market. Furthermore, the company uses just 15% of its profits to fund the payout, so there's plenty more where that came from.
Then there's the generous share repurchase program. The company has been buying back stock hand over fist during the past decade, retiring nearly 39% of its outstanding shares. That means that each shareholder gets a growing piece of the Apple pie.
A port in the storm
Lastly, Apple's consistently strong results and fortresslike balance sheet offer investors a port that's safe in an economic storm. For the first nine months of fiscal 2022, Apple's revenue of $304 billion grew 8% year over year, while its earnings per share of $4.86 climbed 10%. This is a remarkable achievement, especially considering the company's size and the mounting economic headwinds it has faced.
Not to worry, though: Even if macroeconomic conditions get worse, Apple has the resources to ride out the storm. The company has roughly $60 billion in net cash on its balance sheet, which would tide it over nicely during hard times.
For these reasons and more, Apple is the stock I'd buy if I could only buy one.